BBB: Advice for charities and donors during coronavirus pandemic

Milwaukee, Wis. – Much like small and large businesses, charities are feeling the impact of the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Some charity trade organizations have canceled conferences, and others are forging ahead while advising attendees to take measures to protect themselves and others, such as frequent hand washing and refraining from handshaking. 

Agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are predicting that the virus will spread far and wide, and perhaps for a long time. Charities should start developing contingency plans in the event that meetings and conferences planned for later in the year have to be canceled or adapted. Consider offering remote discussions and webinar formats, versus face to face meetings.

Common sense advice also appeared in Fast Company magazine which included advice for businesses that can be just as applicable to charities. For example:

  • Restricting or reducing employee travel to just those situations that must be handled in person
  • Encouraging employees to stay home if they feel ill
  • Developing alternative program delivery plans should staff be significantly reduced due to sick leave
  • Approving more remote work alternatives for employees so they can work from home

Contingency plans for charities will need to be individually tailored for a charity’s facts and circumstances. Some potential points might include identifying how the charity’s programs may need to be modified to address changing demands, particularly if the charity is already addressing issues such as health, education or helping vulnerable individuals. Private foundations may consider funding to help encourage charities to fill anticipated gaps not addressed by government agencies.

For more information, see the BBB Wise Giving Alliance article on the potential impact of coronavirus on charities


To help contributors make their own wise giving decisions to charities addressing the coronavirus outbreak, BBB Wise Giving Alliance suggests that donors keep the following tips in mind:

  1. It is best to consider experienced relief organizations. New charities may have the best of intentions but may face great challenges in fulfilling promises in another country.
  2. Verify the trustworthiness of soliciting relief organizations by visiting to access free reports that specify if the charity meets the 20 BBB Standards for Charity Accountability.
  3. See if the charity has existing connections to be able to deliver aid to impacted areas. Without well-established connections, it may be difficult to provide assistance quickly and effectively.
  4. Some charities may be raising money to pass along to other relief organizations. If so, you may want to consider “avoiding the middleman” and give directly to charities that either have a presence in the region or an established connection.
  5. See if the charity’s appeal clearly describes the intended use of funds. Watch out for vague solicitations that promise assistance to those in need but don’t explain how it will be carried out.
  6. Understand crowdfunding. While there are resources like to help vet charities, it can be difficult to vet individuals. If you decide to contribute to an individual via crowdfunding, it is safest to give to people you personally know. Also, if a charity is raising money using a crowdfunding posting, see the advice noted above. Be particularly cautious of hazy requests that are not clear about the nature of support that will be provided. Also review the site’s instructions to find out about any fees, how quickly funds will be disbursed and other matters of potential importance.

The American Red Cross (a BBB Accredited Charity) issued a press release and is providing blankets, comfort kits, snacks, stuffed animals and other support items for those who have been quarantined at government facilities. According to the press release, they are collaborating “with AABB, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to ensure the safety and availability of the U.S. blood supply for patients in need.” They are asking individuals to postpone blood donations for 28 days if they have traveled to certain geographical areas or have been in contact with anyone who has or is suspected to have COVID-19. The American Red Cross notes it will continue to work with U.S. officials to determine what additional support may be needed in the coming days and weeks.  

The following is a list of other BBB Accredited Charities (i.e., organizations that meet the 20 BBB Standards for Charity Accountability) that announce (on their websites) their activities to address coronavirus. This list will be updated as additional relief efforts come to Wise Giving Alliance’s attention.

AARP FoundationCovenant HouseLutheran World Relief
Action Against HungerDirect ReliefMedical Teams International
AlightEmbrace ReliefMercy Corps
American Cancer SocietyFeeding AmericaNational Jewish Health
American Friends Service CommitteeField ReadyNational Kidney Foundation
American Heart AssociationFeed the ChildrenOxfam America
American Jewish World ServiceFood for the HungryPearl S.Buck International
American Kidney FundFood for the PoorPlan International
American Lung AssociationFood and Water WatchProject HOPE
American Red CrossGlobalGivingSave the Children
AneraHadassahShare Our Strength
amfARHeart to Heart InternationalSt. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
ASPCAHeifer InternationalTechnoServe
Autism Society of AmericaHumane Society of the United StatesUnited Palestinian Appeal
Catholic Medical Mission BoardInnovations for Poverty ActionUnited Way Worldwide
Catholic Relief ServicesInternational Fund for Animal WelfareWorld Food Program USA
ChildFund InternationalInternational Medical CorpsWorld Hope International
Children’s Defense FundIslamic ReliefWorld Pediatric Project
Church World ServiceJDRF InternationalWorld Relief
Concern Worldwide USLiving Water InternationalWorld Vision

For more information, see the BBB Wise Giving Alliance article on contributing to charities addressing coronavirus. For more information or further inquiries, contact the Wisconsin BBB at, 414-847-6000 or 1-800-273-1002. Consumers also can find more information about how to protect themselves from scams by following the Wisconsin BBB on FacebookTwitterInstagram and YouTube.ABOUT BBB: For more than 100 years, the Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2018, people turned to BBB more than 173 million times for BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.4 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at There are local, independent BBBs across the United States, Canada and Mexico, including BBB Serving Wisconsin which was founded in 1939 and serves the state of Wisconsin.