Milwaukee, Wis. – Thousands of acres of land across the West Coast, particularly Southern California, continue to burn and evacuations were ordered for many homes as the flames are vigorously battled by firefighters. As reported this week, there are about 40 large fires in California, Oregon and Washington. High temperatures and wind conditions are contributing to the situation. To assist those seeking to provide help to either the impacted families, firefighters or both, here are some suggestions.
- Give to Established Charities – Charities with experience in handling disaster situations will be more likely to be able to provide assistance quickly and effectively. Be cautious of new organizations that make promises to help without any connections, budgets or plans.
- Volunteer and Gifts in Kind – If you live near the impacted areas, one giving alternative might be to provide housing for firefighters or donate non-perishable food to help feed those battling the blaze. Contact charities such as the Salvation Army and United Way to find out more.
- Be Wary of Vague Appeals – Watch out for vague appeals that don’t describe the intended use of funds. For example, will they be used to help displaced families cover temporary housing, rebuild burned communities, or help address other needs? Also, unless told otherwise, donors assume that funds collected quickly in the wake of a disaster will be spent just as quickly.
- Crowdfunding Cautions – For crowdfunding postings, it is always safest to contribute to people and/or families that you personally know that have posted pleas for financial help. While some crowdfunding sites take precautions in carefully screening postings after a disaster, others might not. If unsure, review the posting procedures described on the crowdfunding site and also find out about transaction fees and other specifics. If the posting claims they will be forwarding funds to an existing charity, consider cutting out the middle man and visit the website of the charity directly.
- Financial Transparency in Disaster Relief – After funds are raised to address a disaster, it is vital for organizations to provide an accounting of how funds were spent. Transparent organizations will post this information on their websites so that anyone can find out and not have to wait until financial statements ae available sometime in the future.
The following organizations are BBB Accredited Charities (i.e., meet the 20 BBB Standards for Charity Accountability) and currently have a website homepage that announces they are collecting funds to assist those impacted by the West Coast wildfires.
Salvation Army For more information or further inquiries, contact the Wisconsin BBB at www.bbb.org/wisconsin, 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 Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.