The Norman Transcript

June 2, 2013

Ensuring storm relief contributions are used effectively

Transcript Staff
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — In response to the tornadoes that touched down in Cleveland County on May 19 and 20, the Association of Fundraising Professionals is strongly encouraging everyone to give to relief efforts. However, donors should also take steps to ensure their contributions will be used ethically and effectively.

Donors can find a list of charities working on the Oklahoma tornado relief efforts at the AFP Disaster Relief and Fundraising Efforts Page. A blog covering news and updates related to fundraising and giving for the relief efforts is also available.

“As we’ve seen in response to other recent events, Americans are generous and quick to give in times of crisis and tragedy,” said Andrew Watt, FInstF, president and CEO of the Association of Fundraising Professionals . “Most organizations involved in these efforts are truly working to make a difference, but taking just a few precautions can help ensure your money goes to legitimate organizations helping those families and communities affected by the tornadoes.”

Watt noted that new fundraising technology is forcing donors to take a little more time in making their giving decisions. “People can now easily set up websites to not only raise funds for relief efforts, but for specific individuals and families,” Watt said. “That’s an incredible advancement and a great way to raise funds, but it also means we have to be a little more careful in making sure these sites are legitimate.”

Watt recommends that donors take their time when deciding to make a gift and not respond to high-pressure requests. “Yes, charities need donations very soon to help in relief efforts, but delaying your decision by 30 minutes or an hour to check elsewhere online, see what other organizations are doing and ensuring the solicitation is legitimate isn’t going to cause a problem. Always avoid high-pressure requests.”

The following tips and guidelines are for donors when making a contribution:

· Don’t be fooled by charities with worthy-sounding names, or names that might sound similar to other organizations. Some questionable charities create names that are intended to sound like other well-known charities and mislead potential donors.

· If an organization is slow to respond to requests for a website or more information, or doesn’t respond at all, consider giving to another organization.

· Don’t be fooled by technical-sounding terms like “tax i.d. number” or other jargon. Lots of different types of organizations have “tax i.d. numbers,” but it doesn’t make them charities. Organizations pushing these sorts of jargon should be avoided.

· If you have any doubt about the legitimacy of a charity, check it out with the local charity registration office (usually a division of the state attorney general’s office) and with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) or similar organizations.

· Ask a telemarketer if he or she is working for a percentage of the funds raised, is paid a set salary or fee, or is a volunteer. If the telemarketer is taking a percentage of funds raised, hang up the phone. Percentage-based compensation is considered unethical.

· While the strength of the charitable sector is its diversity of organizations, both large and small, relief efforts require significant resources. Contributions may be more effective in the short-term when given to larger and well-known organizations with experience in disaster relief.

Watt also pointed to documents such as AFP’s Code of Ethics and The Donor Bill of Rights that highlight what is and isn’t acceptable conduct for charities and fundraisers. By reviewing these documents at, donors will be more informed and confident about their charitable giving decisions.