A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

BBB Trends: Mindful, effective giving in times of tragedy; figure out where to give before the disaster


By Sandra Guile
Better Business Bureau

When we see tragic events unfolding, such as natural disasters or tragic shootings, the first thing we want to do is fix it—right now!

Unfortunately, that’s not exactly the way things work. Major disasters take time to sort out and recover from, and the charities that provide support need help long before the disaster or tragedy strikes.

When donations are given to disaster-related charities, unless otherwise specified, they put the funds to use training volunteers, stockpiling supplies and gathering materials to use at the next disaster site, so help will be ready at a moment’s notice.

Donors, while well-intentioned, are more often moved to donate immediately after such an event, expecting their donations will help the situation. And they do — but it’s best to provide the resources that a nonprofit actually requests, and in a time-conscious way.

Each situation, whether a natural disaster or national tragedy, brings its own set of circumstances. The challenges for rescue volunteers change from one day to the next. The complexities of onsite circumstances cannot be fully understood until the rescuing agencies are on scene and can coordinate their services with the local, federal and state law enforcement crews already in place. This includes assessing the damage and possibly clearing a crime scene to protect the safety of volunteers.

There are many moving parts in the hours following the wake of a disaster or tragedy.

As the BBB Wise Giving Alliance says, this may cause some people to abandon the attempt to help in such challenging circumstances, yet for others, it can inspire them to make even better plans to succeed. To be effective in helping victims and rebuilding efforts in the wake of a massive natural disaster — such as Hurricane Dorian, or the communities recovering from mass shootings — donors are encouraged to thoroughly research and then contribute to charities who understand what problems to anticipate and provide effective and timely relief.

The desire to help when emotions are high can be overwhelming, and it may alleviate some of the discomfort victims are experiencing at the time. But the proactive approach of giving before a disaster will likely carry your help much, much further.

Learn more by visiting give.org.

Sandra Guile is the Public Relations Specialist for BBB. She promotes BBB’s message of marketplace ethics through public speaking engagements, presentations, media relations, press releases, web content, and other written materials. Your BBB is located at 1 East 4th Street Suite 600 Cincinnati, Ohio 45202 – to reach the office, call (513) 421-3015.


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