Many Americans are deeply moved by the images and accounts of the wildfires in Australia. It’s no wonder. Altogether an area nearly the size of the State of Indiana has burned, killing 24 people and millions of wildlife.
The cause is worthwhile and as more look for ways to contribute, your Better Business Bureau (BBB) has advice for how you can maximize the effectiveness of your donation.
First of all, remember: Money is better than donating goods. Your monetary contributions allow flexibility so that the aid goes where it is most needed. It’s also easier to transport and more cost effective as a result.
But how can you know that the money you give is really going to get to there? Unfortunately, there are always those who try to take advantage of tragedies for their own gain. Similarly, there are always organizations that are more efficient with your money than others. Here is BBB’s take on how to give effectively.
That crowdfunding post that caught your attention with a dramatic headline or image could be a scam or could be poorly conceived. There is a lot of variance among such sites concerning the vetting of posts and the processing fees they can have. Look for answers to these questions:
• Who is behind the appeal?
• Do they legitimately represent the named charitable cause?
• What is there description of their terms and procedures?
• Do they have safeguards against fraud?
• Are they helping a charity or are they naming a specific individual, family or group? (If they name a charity, make a direct donation to it instead of to the crowdfund site. Third parties can reduce the amount of your money going directly to the need.)
Watch out for:
• Vague descriptions of where funds will go. They should communicate clearly about donation use and funding distribution.
• Images used without victim permission. That heart-wrenching picture may have no connection to the group making the plea.
• Images such as wildfire maps that give an inaccurate view of the fire problem. Some widely spread maps on social media have been reported to do so.
• Non-deductible charitable giving. If it’s important to you to get a tax deduction for your gift, search online for IRS Publication 526 to learn which donations count. (Restricting a gift to an individual, for example, can make it non-deductible.)
Some well-established and known entities
For donations to Australian-based charities, visit the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission’s website at acnc.gov.au where you can find their registry.
U.S. charities are accepting funding for wildfire relief as well. BBB has 20 standards for charitable accountability which you can read about at give.org. Among accredited organizations helping Australian wildfire relief are:
• American Red Cross
• Direct Relief
• Global Giving
• International Fund for Animal Welfare
• Save the Children
Australian firefighter giving
For those interested in contributing more directly to the firefighters engaged in combating the disaster, you can visit this Australian government link: NSW Rural Fire Service. Local Australian firefighting “brigades” accept donations for their services. Otherwise, watch out for those who claim to be helping the firefighters but really have no official connection to them.
For answers to other questions about donations to help Australia deal with its wildfires, contact your BBB at (800) 856-2417 or visit our website at bbb.org.