Advice on Donating to Help with the Wildfires in Australia

BBB Consumer Alerts

The fires in Australia have been devastating; 18 million acres of land have been destroyed. Many people want to know how they can help provide assistance for displaced families and wildlife, or how to help the brave firefighters working to put out the flames.

BBB Wise Giving Alliance has specific advice for those wishing to donate to these Australian causes.

Investigate before you consider a crowdfunding donation.  Some crowdfunding platforms do a better job of vetting postings and projects than others, and they typically also charge various processing fees that may reduce donation amounts. Check to see who is behind the crowdfunding appeal and consider whether that person or group might legitimately represent the named charitable cause. Also, see if the posting is claiming to be helping a specific individual/family/group or whether it claims to be passing on funds to a designated charity or charities. If a charity is named, consider making a direct donation to that organization rather than relying on a third party to carry out your giving intentions.

How funds will be used. Vague descriptions of how the collected funds will be used should be a yellow caution light. For example, will the funds be used for firefighting activities, temporary housing for displaced families, food, medical expenses, reconstruction, or other relief activities? Thoughtful requests for funding will identify genuine disaster needs and response abilities, and communicate clearly about intended donation uses and plans for funding distributions.

Don’t assume pictures are used with permission.  Unfortunately, some crowdfunding postings may be using pictures of victims without the permission of their families. As a result, you can’t assume the poster has an official connection. Again, each site has different rules on what they allow. As a donor, it is up to you to approach with caution, especially after a disaster or tragedy.

Your contribution may not be deductible as a charitable gift. If a crowdfunding posting or a charitable appeal is claiming to be helping a specific named individual or family, donors in the U.S. generally cannot take a federal income tax deduction, even if the individual or family is in need. On the other hand, if you are giving to a charitable organization that is helping a group of needy individuals and you are not restricting your gift to a specific person, then you can generally take a deduction. Keep in mind, if the charity is not located in the U.S., in most cases, a gift would not be deductible even though a charity is receiving the contribution. See IRS Publication 526, page 6, for more information on this subject.

Australian-based charities

If you consider donating to an Australian-based charity, check out the registry of the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission. 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. The following charities located in Australia are raising funds to provide various types of assistance to people or wildlife.

While the following five entities were not evaluated by BBB Wise Giving Alliance, the American affiliates of these charities are BBB accredited (i.e., they meet the 20 BBB Standards for Charity Accountability.):

United States-based charities

There are a number of U.S. based charities that are accepting funding to address the Australian fires. See the respective website links to find out more. The following list includes groups that are BBB Accredited (i.e., meet the 20 BBB Standards for Charity Accountability.):

Helping Australian Firefighter Organizations

Some donors also may have an interest in contributing to help the firefighters themselves. There are local Australian fire service entities known as “brigades” that do accept donations to carry out their various services. If you wish to support such entities, visit an official Australian government link such as the following: NSW Rural Fire Service. Be cautious about appeals from those claiming to raise funds for Australian firefighters without any official connection to them.

Our strongest recommendation is to contribute to experienced organizations that meet the 20 BBB Standards for Charity Accountability, particularly in the wake of disasters.

Visit Give.org to access reports on these and other charities. Experienced relief organizations are more likely to provide quick and effective assistance. Newly established entities may be well-intentioned but may not have the skills and infrastructure to provide immediate help.

For more information, please see the full article Wise Giving Wednesday: Donating to Address the Fires in Australia.

Source: BBB.org

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