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Research before donating to Nepal earthquake relief

The devastating earthquake that flattened parts of Katmandu and triggered avalanches in the Himalayas over the weekend has prompted an international outpouring of sympathy and aid for Nepalese recovery. Better Business Bureau advises consumers to check out the charities they support and avoid fraudulent charities that often crop up to take advantage of their sympathy for earthquake victims.

BBB offers the following tips to help Americans decide where to direct donations:

Rely on respected experts to evaluate a charity. Be cautious when relying on third-party recommendations such as bloggers, because they may not have fully researched the listed relief organizations.

There are several charity review sites you can visit to research before you donate. These include and

Be wary of claims that 100 percent of donations assist victims. All charities have fundraising and administrative costs. Even a credit card donation will involve, at a minimum, a processing fee. A charity should be transparent and tell you exactly how money will be used.

Be cautious when giving online to unfamiliar charities. Be wary of spam messages and emails that claim to link to a relief organization. After the tsunami disaster in 2011 and the earthquake in Haiti in 2010, many websites and organizations that were created overnight allegedly to help victims turned out to be scams.

Find out if a charity has a presence in the impacted area. Unless the charity already has staff in the affected area, it may be difficult to get new aid workers into the area to provide assistance. See if the charity’s website clearly describes what they can do to address immediate needs.

Gifts of clothing, food or other in-kind donations may not be appropriate. Unless the organization has the staff and infrastructure to distribute such aid, the donations may be more of a burden than a help. Be wary of those who are not experienced in disaster relief.

Whenever there is a major natural disaster, you can count on the generosity of Americans who donate time and money to help victims. Donors want to be sure their money goes to competent relief organizations that are equipped to handle the unique challenges of providing assistance in a disaster zone.

If you have a question, please contact the Mid-Missouri BBB at or 573-886-8965.

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