Guidance to ensure charitable donations are legitimate and used appropriately

Seeing someone in need is often a trigger for people to jump in and help. Whether it is immigrant children and adults being detained near the Mexico/Texas border, people affected by natural disasters or even people in your community that need help, there are so many causes to donate to.

Sadly, scammers often take advantage of these tender moments. Along with scammers taking advantage of these moments of vulnerability to deceive donors, there are also those that have great intentions but may not be able to carry out their promised activities.

The Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance urges donors to give thoughtfully and avoid those seeking to take advantage of the generosity of others.

Take the time to check out the charity of your choice to avoid wasting your generosity by donating to a questionable or poorly managed effort. The first request for a donation may not be the best choice.

The best thing to do is do your research and find trusted charities that are assisting.

While some crowdfunding sites have taken significant measures to help prevent fraudulent postings, other crowdfunding sites do little vetting of individuals who decide to post for assistance after a tragedy.

As a result, it is often difficult for donors to verify the trustworthiness of crowdfunding. Giving a monetary donation is often the way most people help, but for those who want to donate clothing, toys, hygiene products finding a charity that has experience in distribution is vital.

If you can see how they get these products to those in need, it can give you peace of mind that your donations will get to those you intended to have those things.

There are definite red flags to watch for:

n Watch out for vague appeals that don’t identify the intended use of funds. Also, unless told otherwise, donors will assume that funds collected quickly in the wake of a tragedy will be spent just as quickly. See if the appeal identifies when the collected funds will be used.

n Never click on links to charities on unfamiliar websites or in text messages or email. These may take you to a look-alike website where you will be asked to provide personal financial information or may download harmful malware onto your computer.

n Newly-created v. established organizations: This is a personal giving choice, but an established charity will more likely have the experience to quickly address the circumstances and have a track record that can be evaluated. A newly-formed organization may be well-meaning but will be difficult to check out and may not be well managed.

Visit to verify if a charity meets the BBB standards for charitable accountability.

Jeremy Johnson is the eastern Idaho marketplace manager for Better Business Bureau, serving the Northwest and Pacific. Contact her by emailing

Jeremy Johnson is the eastern Idaho marketplace manager for Better Business Bureau, serving the Northwest and Pacific. Contact her at by emailing