Give, but give wisely to Oklahoma tornado relief efforts - Fox29 WFLX TV, West Palm Beach, Florida-

Give, but give wisely to Oklahoma tornado relief efforts

Posted: Updated:
KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -

In times of disaster, many people just give to a charity claiming to help those in need with little inquiry as to whether that organization is providing a legitimate service.

But experts say there are websites and agencies people can contact to make sure their money goes to the right people.

The outpouring of financial support in the aftermath of the Moore, OK, tornado continues at the American Red Cross in Kansas City.

"It started early this morning. Right after we opened our switchboard, we had a lot of calls," Regional Executive Director Matt Meyer said.

Meyer said that was typical whenever there is a disaster of Oklahoma's magnitude. And because it happened about six hours away, this one hit close to home.

"When we are raising money during times of disaster, those funds would go to our disaster relief fund. We can assist not only the people of Oklahoma, but people who are impacted by disaster," Meyer said.

But before people write the check, there are some things they should know about the charity they are giving to.

"There is various quality of charity, even the legitimate ones, and then there are flat out scams. People just want to take your money, take advantage of a situation that's already horrible," said Aaron Reese with the Better Business Bureau.

The BBB has what it calls a list of standards for charity and accountability that spells out exactly how a charity should operate, especially when it comes to donations.

"We have a baseline basically of 65 percent should go to actual programs and to help victims and whatever the subject of your charity would be," Reese said.

The Red Cross exceeds that baseline with 91 percent of every donated dollar the service organization receives going toward program services or aid for the victims. Five percent goes toward fundraising, and four percent goes toward management and general costs, which includes staff salaries and administrative expenses.

"We move forward, and we are able to assist people based upon showing the community that we are accountable, that we are transparent and we are good stewards of their dollar," Meyer said.

There are websites to check on the validity of a charity.

The BBB site has a database of nearly every charity in the country.

Then there is CharityNavigator.org, which actually rates that charity as to its finances and accountability.

And there is also GuideStar.org, which compiles information on nearly every IRS nonprofit.

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