St. Louis, Mo., June 10, 2010 – Consumers horrified by pictures of oil-covered birds, brown gunk on beaches and plumes of oil spewing from the crippled BP oil well at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico may want to volunteer to help or donate money for the cleanup.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) advises donors to take a careful look at organizations seeking donations to address the crisis before they write a check or volunteer time.
“Businesses, communities and wildlife across several states have been seriously affected by the spill, and the need for assistance is great,” said Michelle L. Corey, BBB president and CEO. “However, constraints in the cleanup effort limit what charities can do with your money or how you can volunteer,” she said.
With the crisis in the Gulf, it can be difficult to distinguish between organizations asking for donations to help them push a political agenda and those that will use the money to rescue wildlife or clean up beaches and marshes contaminated with the oil. Some charities may be poorly organized or unable to deliver aid where it’s needed.
The BBB suggests that donors and volunteers consider the following:
- Beware of well-intentioned but inexperienced organizations – New non-profits and relief organizations spring up following any major disaster. While these groups might have the best of intentions, new charities responding to a crisis may lack the resources, experience and management needed to be effective.
- Understand where your money is going - Find out how the organization plans to spend funds for Gulf relief, ecosystem recovery and related activities. Among the activities that charities are promoting, in addition to shoreline rescue and protection, are needs assessment, litigation, economic relief, advocacy for new governmental energy policies and research into long-term solutions to minimize effects of future disasters. Ask whether the organization can restrict your donation for use in Gulf-related activities or if it intends to use it to support all of its programs.
- Find out if the charity is doing Gulf-related work or raising funds for other Gulf relief organizations - If a charity is raising money for other groups, you may want to consider avoiding the middleman and giving directly to those performing the work.
- Volunteering for Gulf cleanup may require special skills or training - Learn what qualifications are necessary before setting off for the site. If you’re looking to get your hands dirty, you’re out of luck unless you’re certified to handle hazardous materials or have received training to care for injured wildlife. Other volunteer opportunities may include shoreline monitoring, fund raising, office work, help in food programs for families in need and providing transportation.
- There will be many opportunities to give, so keep checking – The Gulf region will be suffering from the effects of the oil spill for years to come and, as the situation unfolds, there will be more opportunities for donors to step in and help in the future.
- Rely on expert opinion to evaluate charities - Be cautious when relying on third-party recommendations posted on blogs or websites, as the authors might not have fully researched the organizations they list. Go to www.bbb.org/charity to verify that they are accredited by the BBB and meet the BBB’s 20 Standards for Charity Accountability.
Charities working in the Gulf that meet BBB Wise Giving Alliance standards include: American Bird Conservancy, Defenders of Wildlife, Ducks Unlimited, EarthShare, Environmental Defense Fund, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace Fund, International Fund for Animal Welfare, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council, Nature Conservancy and Oceana.
For more information about charities or to get a BBB Reliability Report, check with the BBB at www.bbb.org or by calling 314-645-3300.
Contacts: Michelle Corey, President & CEO, 314-645-3300, firstname.lastname@example.org, or Chris Thetford, Director of Communications, 314-645-3300, email@example.com