(WXMI) — Be charitable but cautious if you’re making donations to causes that help Ukraine and its people.
Typically in times of crisis, donations increase to causes that help with humanitarian aid. But so do scams, and experts are warning of that.
“Scammers go where the money is,” says Troy Baker, a spokesman with the Better Business Bureau of West Michigan. “It’s your money, so find the charity that does the work that you want to get done.”
Baker says the best place to start is figuring out the cause you want your money to go towards, then do your research. Dig into the charity or nonprofit’s financials, look at their board members, and snoop around online for any info you can get into the group’s dealings.
“You can’t just go by the name of the charity or if the website looks really good; you really do need to dig into who they are,” says Baker. “Just because the charity sounds like it does something based on the name doesn’t mean that’s where the money’s going.”
Baker says scammers will use text messages, emails and phone calls to solicit money. He recommends cross-checking with a site like Give.org or your local BBB office before committing to a donation. You can also reach out to the charity directly.
“Don’t be afraid to call the charity, send them an email, ask them, get to know them a little bit,” says Baker. “You don’t have to give this second. You can give an hour from now and still be okay.”
Also be wary of crowdfunding campaigns. Baker says sites like GoFundMe are helpful in some cases, but they have very little oversight when it comes to where that money is actually going. He also says be wary of fundraisers you see on social media, even if they’re posted by a friend or family member.
“People have the best of intentions but just scrolling through your feed and just clicking on something that looks good may not be the best use of that money or the safest use of that money,” he said.
A list compiled by Charity Navigator ranks charities based on how financially efficient and transparent they are. Direct Relief, a charity that provides medical equipment and aid to regions in need, received the highest 5-star rating.
They’d been doing work in Ukraine even before the invasion launched, providing life-saving prescriptions drugs and first-aid backpacks for teams on the ground equipped with ready-to-go equipment.
“Particularly in these high-profile events, I think it’s important for organizations like ours to make sure that there’s an option for donors to be very clear about what they want done with their money,” said Direct Relief President and CEO Thomas Tighe. “If we receive a donation at Direct Relief for Ukraine, that’s the only thing it can be spent on. We’re duty-bound to do that, we segregate the money, we track it accordingly.”
To see the BBB of West Michigan’s Standards for Charity Accountability, click here.