Wise Giving Wednesday: Contributing to Charities Addressing Coronavirus

Hero image for Wise Giving Wednesday:  Contributing to Charities Addressing Coronavirus
calendar icon Jul 17, 2020

When a natural disaster or tragedy occurs, generous donors are quick to assist charities that are providing help. It is not surprising to see this same desire emerge as authorities seek to contain the spread of Coronavirus that began in Wuhan, China and has tragically resulted in over 1,000 deaths to date.

One of the first needs identified in China was the availability of face masks and other protective medical gear which quickly sold out both in retail stores and online. Inventories of face masks in other countries were also running low as individuals sought to ship these items to family members in China. A number of the American charities listed below are focused on helping to obtain and mail these needed medical supplies to China. Unfortunately, scammers have also taken advantage of these shortages. (See BBB Scam Alert on face mask cons.)

In addition, on February 5, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced that it will “immediately provide up to $100 million for the global response to the 2019 novel coronavirus.” Among other things, these funds will seek to improve detection, isolation and treatment efforts and accelerate the development of vaccines, drugs and diagnostics.

To help contributors make their own wise giving decisions to charities addressing the coronavirus outbreak, BBB Wise Giving Alliance suggests that donors keep the following tips in mind:

  1. It is best to consider experienced relief organizations. New charities may have the best of intentions, but may face great challenges in fulfilling promises in another country.
  2. Verify the trustworthiness of soliciting relief organizations by visiting Give.org to access free reports that specify if the charity meets the 20 BBB Standards for Charity Accountability.
  3. See if the charity has existing connections to be able to deliver aid to impacted areas. Without well-established connections, it may be difficult to provide assistance quickly and effectively.
  4. Some charities may be raising money to pass along to other relief organizations. If so, you may want to consider “avoiding the middleman” and give directly to charities that either have a presence in the region or an established connection.
  5. See if the charity’s appeal clearly describes the intended use of funds. Watch out for vague solicitations that promise assistance to those in need but don’t explain how it will be carried out.
  6. Understand crowdfunding. While there are resources like Give.org to help vet charities, it can be difficult to vet individuals. If you decide to contribute to an individual via crowdfunding, it is safest to give to people you personally know. Also, if a charity is raising money using a crowdfunding posting, see the advice noted above. Be particularly cautious of hazy requests that are not clear about the nature of support that will be provided. Also review the sites instructions to find out about any fees, how quickly funds will be disbursed and other matters of potential importance.

The American Red Cross (a BBB Accredited Charity) issued a statement on February 11th indicating that it is currently supporting government agencies and state officials to assist evacuees returning to the U.S. from China. When requested, its role is to provide blankets, comfort kits, snacks, stuffed animals and other support items for those who have been quarantined at government facilities. The American Red Cross notes it will continue to work with U.S. officials to determine what additional support may be needed in the coming days and weeks.   

The following is a list of other BBB Accredited Charities (i.e., organizations that meet the 20 BBB Standards for Charity Accountability) that announce (on their websites) their activities to address coronavirus. This list will be updated as additional relief efforts come to BBB’s Give.org’s attention.

Americares Foundation

Brother's Brother Foundation

Direct Relief


Heart to Heart International

Project HOPE

Save the Children

United Methodist Committee on Relief

World Vision

Canadian-based charities:  If you are considering donating to a Canadian-based charity, there is a list of Registered Charities provided by the Government of Canada, which can be found here. While the registration with this government agency does not mean the government is recommending or endorsing the charity, it does signify that the group has filed the appropriate paperwork with this agency.

Video of the Week 

As part of our Building Trust Video Series, we are pleased to provide a video featuring Cyndi Zagieboylo, President and CEO, of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (a BBB Accredited Charity) which funds research into the causes, treatments, and a cure of MS. The organization also provides education and support to people with MS, their families and caregivers; provides education and training for healthcare professionals who treat people living with MS; and provides direct financial assistance to people living with multiple sclerosis. 

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.

H. Art Taylor, President & CEO
BBB Wise Giving Alliance

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