Wise Giving Wednesday: Misleading Appeals for Ohio Train Derailment

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calendar icon May 10, 2023


Misleading Appeals for Ohio Train Derailment

Earlier in the year, the news featured images of the tragic derailment of the Norfolk Southern trains in East Palestine, Ohio, that spewed toxic chemicals into the atmosphere and surrounding area. Many residents were forced to leave their homes. It is quite common that fundraising usually follows such disasters to help provide resources for those in need. Unfortunately, it can also attract those who seek to take advantage of the emotional reactions of generous donors.

Last month, the Office of the Attorney General in Ohio sued the Ohio Clean Water Fund for allegedly misrepresenting it was “…soliciting on behalf of the Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley to provide residents with emergency aid and bottled water.” Instead, the Attorney General claimed organizers “…pocketed at least $131,000 of the roughly $141,000 raised from more than 3,000 donors.”  The referenced food bank claimed this organization was not authorized to raise money on its behalf.  Additional details can be found in this link to the Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction filed on April 10, 2023.

This circumstance helps underscore the importance of taking precautions when responding to charitable appeals in the wake of any type of disaster.

Typically, BBB Wise Giving Alliance urges donors to do the following, among other things:

Support experienced relief organizations. Charities with experience in addressing immediate emergency needs stand ready to provide quick and effective assistance. Donors should be cautious of newly formed efforts. Even if well intentioned, they may not be able to follow through on their promised goals.

Give directly to the charity doing the relief work. To help ensure that funds can be put to immediate use, it makes sense to give directly to the charity conducting the relief work rather than to another organization that distributes funds to others. That can add another level of unnecessary administrative expense.

Needs change over the course of a crisis. As the specific emergency needs of a community will evolve after a disaster, look at relief appeals carefully. For example, in East Palestine, initially food and clothing were sought by those in need. Later, water became a central cause of concern. The charity’s website should update potential donors about what they are currently addressing.

Verify the charity’s trustworthiness.  Rely on expert opinion when it comes to evaluating a charity. We recommend giving to charities that meet all 20 BBB Standards for Charity Accountability, found at BBB’s Give.org.

Video of the Week

As part of the Building Trust Video series, BBB WGA interviews Hannah Bryeans, Director of Finance and Operations, Atlas Free (a BBB Accredited Charity) that seeks to provide a holistic approach to combat sexual exploitation and sex trafficking in 21 countries through a network of 27 local partners. The organization addresses key root causes of sexual slavery including poverty and social issues in vulnerable communities through outreach, education, vocational training, awareness, intervention, restoration and empowerment.

Heart of Giving Podcast

For this week’s Heart of Giving Podcast, BBB WGA offers Part II of a conversation with Mari Kuraishi, the President of the Jessie Ball duPont Fund, a private foundation located in Jacksonville, Florida. Mari Kuraishi leads the Fund's efforts to create communities of belonging by fostering inclusive growth and reducing structural and systemic barriers to resources and opportunity.

Recent Reports

We are always working with charities to publish or update reports for donors. Visit Give.org or local BBBs to check out any charity before giving. Our recently evaluated charities include:

Finally, remember to let us know by going to give.org/charity-inquiry if you are interested in seeing a report on a charity not on the list and we will do our best to produce one.

TAGS: Donations , Charity
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