So many across the country and in East Tennessee are feeling shock, disappointment and concern after a viral GoFundMe turned out to be a get-rich-quick scheme.
A New Jersey couple said last year a man experiencing homelessness gave them his last $20 to fill up their empty gas tank. The couple created a GoFundMe account and $400,000 was raised. Investigators say all three are facing criminal charges, adding it was all a ruse.
The Better Business Bureau of Greater East Tennessee shared how to make sure your donations are going to trustworthy organizations.
The United Way of Greater Knoxville has been in our community nearly 96 years. Through this organization, 56 partner agencies receive grants to help. Those organizations include the Boys and Girls Club, YMCA, American Red Cross, Second Harvest Food Bank and more.
“You have to be very careful. One of the things we say is don’t trust, verify,” said Ben Landers, president of United Way of Greater Knoxville.
Landers says before donating, people should ask questions, research and get specifics about an organization.
In turn, the Better Business Bureau of Greater East Tennessee vets charities to make sure they’re trustworthy.
“We look at governance or their organization, their board, how big their board is, how many times do they meet. We look at their finances, how much money actually goes to the charity or to pay other expenses. We also look at how transparent they are in their reporting,” said Tony Binkley, president of BBB of Greater East Tennessee.
The BBB suggests, before you donate:
- Get the charity’s exact name
- Resist pressure to give on the spot
- Be wary of heart-wrenching appeals
- Press for specifics
- Check the charity’s website for their mission, program, finances and audits which should be available on their website
- Check with state charity officials
- Never assume a charity is tax exempt
Binkley says when it comes to online fundraising, these same rules should be applied.
“Typically I would say you should know the person that’s associated with the GoFundMe account, the person who needs the help or somebody organizing the money for them and if you don’t start asking questions. Again, most of them are good but unfortunately you never know,” he said.
The BBB also suggesting we be wary of phone calls requesting financial donations, they suggest:
- Never give your credit card number to unknown callers
- Ask who’s calling and get the organization’s name straight
- Ask for specifics like the charity’s purpose and how a gift will be used
- Resist pressure and you can request a telemarketer not to call again on behalf of a particular charity
To research a charity and find more information, you can visit the BBB’s Wise Giving Alliance site by clicking here.