Hurricane Harvey: How You Can Help


BBB Offers Tips on Helping Texas in the Aftermath of Hurricane Harvey

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey’s devastation, BBB and BBB Wise Giving Alliance are advising people to exhibit caution when making charitable donations. After a tragedy, it is important to be sure that charitable gifts reach those who need it most.

The National Weather Service reports that Hurricane Harvey has brought over 20 inches of rain to portions of southeast Texas and the volume of flooding is unprecedented for this area. And, another 15-25 inches of rain is anticipated in the days to come. As the impact of this storm on Texas communities is heart wrenching, many will seek to contribute to help those in need.

BBB is already seeing crowdfunding appeals of a dubious nature, and in the days ahead expect to see “storm chasers” looking to make a quick buck off of clean-up efforts. Consumers can report suspected scams to BBB Scam Tracker or the Texas Attorney General’s hotline (800-621-0508 or consumeremergency@nag.texas.gov).

BBB suggests that donors keep the following tips in mind to help avoid questionable appeals for support:

  • Verify the trustworthiness of soliciting relief organizations by visiting Give.org to access free reports that specify if the charity meets the 20 BBB Standards for Charity Accountability.
  • See if the charity has an on-the-ground presence in the impacted areas. Unless the charity already has staff in the affected areas, it may be difficult to bring in new aid workers to provide assistance quickly. See if the charity’s website clearly describes what the charity can do to address immediate needs.
  • Find out if the charity is providing direct aid or raising money for other groups. Some charities may be raising money to pass along to relief organizations. If so, you may want to consider “avoiding the middleman” and giving directly to those that have a presence in the region. Or, at a minimum, check out the ultimate recipients of these donations to see whether they are equipped to provide aid effectively.
  • Be cautious about gifts of clothing, food or other in-kind donations. In-kind drives for food and clothing, while well intentioned, may not necessarily be the quickest way to help those in need – unless the organization has the staff and infrastructure to distribute such aid properly. Ask the charity about its transportation and distribution plans. Be wary of those who are not experienced in disaster relief assistance.
  • Understand crowdfunding. Keep in mind that some crowdfunding sites do very little vetting of individuals who decide to post for assistance after a disaster, and it is often difficult for donors to verify the trustworthiness of crowdfunding requests for support. If you decide to contribute via crowdfunding, it is probably best to give to people who you personally know that have posted requests for assistance.
  • Phases of disaster relief. Remember that every disaster has several phases – rescue, emergency relief, and recovery. Each part relies on public support and continuing funding for success. The need for donations doesn’t stop when the headlines do.
  • Recovery time line. For many communities, recovery will be a long-term activity that can take many months or years to accomplish, depending on the extent of the damage. Those truly concerned about helping communities bounce back will have many opportunities to help.
  • Disaster planning. Although it may seem obvious, no one wants to experience a repeat performance of a disaster. Areas that work toward recovery will probably also need to develop plans to better respond to a similar storm in the future. Even those that already had measures in place can find ways to improve based on experience.

The following is a list of BBB Accredited Charities that are raising funds for Hurricane Harvey relief assistance:

  • American Red Cross
  • AmeriCares
  • Church World Service
  • Direct Relief
  • GlobalGiving Foundation
  • Humane Society of the United States
  • Islamic Relief USA
  • MAP International
  • Operation USA
  • Salvation Army
  • Save the Children
  • United Methodist Committee on Relief
  • United Way of Greater Houston

Consumers can find more disaster relief tips and resources by visiting BBB’s Disaster Resources Microsite.

Charitable Giving Tips Following Hurricane Harvey, Texas Flooding

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine offered advice to help Ohioans make wise charitable contributions and avoid scams following the catastrophic flooding in Texas caused by Hurricane Harvey.

“We encourage people to be generous in helping those affected by the devastating floods in Texas,” Attorney General DeWine said. “We also encourage people to make sure their donations go to legitimate causes, not scammers. A little bit of research can go a long way to avoid being taken advantage of when helping those in need.”

Tips for making charitable donations after a natural disaster:

  • Carefully review donation requests. Do some research to make sure your donation will be used as intended. After a natural disaster or national tragedy, some sham charities pop up to take advantage of people’s generosity. Don’t assume that charity recommendations on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media sites have been vetted. The first donation request you find may not be the best.
  • Evaluate charities using resources such as the Ohio Attorney General’s Office (or the offices of other state attorneys general), IRS Select Check, Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, and GuideStar.
  • Beware of “look-alike” websites or accounts. Be skeptical of charities or groups with names that sound similar to well-known organizations. They may be intended to confuse donors. If you receive a message from an organization asking for a donation, confirm that the request truly is from the organization, and not an impostor, by contacting the organization directly or visiting its website.
  • Be careful when giving to newly formed charities. Some charities that are formed shortly after a natural disaster or tragedy have good intentions but lack the experience to properly handle donors’ contributions. Established charities are more likely to have experience to respond following a tragedy and to have a track record that you can review.
  • Check out crowdfunding campaigns before donating. If you want to make a contribution using a crowdfunding or peer-to-peer fundraising site, find out how your donation will be used before donating. Try to determine which campaigns are legitimate and supported by those close to the tragedy, and which haven’t been vetted. (Some people ask for donations claiming to help victims but ultimately keep the money for themselves.) Also consider how much of your donation will go to the website itself or whether you will be charged any fees for making the donation. Find out how the website will use your personal information. Be wary of sites that don’t provide a privacy policy.
  • Review claims carefully. Some groups sell merchandise online and claim that “100 percent of the proceeds” will benefit a specific charitable purpose, but this claim does not necessarily mean 100 percent of the sales price will go toward the cause. Contact the organization to ask how much of each purchase will support the cause. If the organization cannot give you an answer, consider donating another way.
  • Contact a charity before raising money on its behalf. If you want to set up a fundraiser for a particular charity, contact the organization in advance and determine how you can properly collect donations.

Signs of a potential charity scam include:

  • High-pressure tactics.
  • No details about how your donation will be used.
  • Refusal to provide written information about the charity.
  • Organizations with names that sound similar to other better-known organizations.
  • Requests for donations made payable to a person instead of a charity.
  • Offers to pick up donations immediately versus in the mail or online.

Those who suspect a charity scam or questionable charitable activity should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov or 800-282-0515. The Ohio Attorney General’s Office investigates and takes enforcement action against charitable fraud.

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A drone’s view of a flooded southeast Houston from Hurricane Harvey.
http://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2017/09/web1_drone-video-hurricane-harvey-flooding-se-houston-940×529.jpgA drone’s view of a flooded southeast Houston from Hurricane Harvey.

Staff Reports

Who can use donations

American Red Cross — For blood donations and other medical needs. Portlight — Focusing on inclusive disaster relief for those with disabilities. Global Giving — Aiming to raise $2 million for emergency supplies and shelter. Texas Diaper Bank — Putting together relief kits for families with small children.

“If everyone just gives a little bit, we can make a real difference.” — Ohio Gov. John Kasich

#HurricaneHarvey

Salvation Army: http://www.salvationarmyusa.org

Red Cross: http://www.redcross.org/hp/harvey3