After recent tragic events, including a shooting in El Paso, communities are mobilizing to help those affected. Many people are angry or grieving, and many are looking for the road to recovery. Better Business Bureau serving the Heart of Texas applauds those who are offering what they can, and we are here to help as well by advising consumers on the best ways they can give wisely after tragedies.

BBB offers the following tips for those looking to donate or volunteer:

• Watch for scams. Unfortunately, there are people out there who may take advantage of those in need or those looking to extend generosity. Rather than giving money to the first organization that asks, take time to carefully choose where you want to volunteer or donate.

• Give thoughtfully. If you choose to donate or volunteer through a charity, visit first to see if the organization meets BBB’s Standards for Charity Accountability. You want to be sure your time and money are going exactly where you intend, and that resources are going where they’re most needed.

• Think before contributing to crowdfunding sites. Keep in mind that some crowdfunding sites do very little to verify the individuals creating posts on their forums. If you decide to give to a crowdfund, it may be best to give to one created by someone you know — and trust — personally.

• Respect victims and their families. Any organization that raises funds for a victim or victim’s family should always receive permission first. Keep this in mind before donating or creating a fund.

• Learn how donations will be used. If you don’t see a description of how funds will be used, ask! Be wary of vague answers, as this could be a red flag.

• Newer vs. established charitable organizations. You may find yourself trying to decide if there is an advantage to donating to an established rather than a newly created organization. Ultimately, where you give your time or money is your decision. A newer group may be offering opportunities you feel best suit how you want to contribute. However, they may also be more difficult to verify. A more established organization also will have the advantage of having better experience with efficiently addressing a situation.

If you or your family were affected by recent events, you may decide setting up your own assistance fund is the best way to go about receiving help. If you do this, keep in mind that these funds cannot be set up as charities. You may also want to consider contacting a bank, lawyer or CPA who can assist by receiving and distributing money donated. This way, someone can ensure collections are being used appropriately (e.g., for funeral costs, counseling, etc.).

For more information on giving wisely after tragedies, please visit us at

Emily Gaines is the public relations coordinator for the Bryan-College Station office of Better Business Bureau.

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