As concerned Eugeneans are rushing to try to help the people of Nepal, it's hard to know what to do. Donating money is usually a sure bet, but how do you know what's a scam? The Better Business Bureau has sent out a list of what to look for (see below) and Charity Navigator does a nice job helping people to evaluate charities.
Here in Eugene, one of our sister cities is Kathmandu and the the city of Eugene website was directing people to local organization Kathmandue Relief. However, there has been some confusion about the organization and the state of Oregon has asked the city take down the link because the organization's 501c3 status that makes donations tax deductible was not current.
Dennis Ramsey of Kathmandu Relief has responded to this and says the confusion is the result of an error he is in the process of rectifying.
Here is the email from the Oregon DOJ to the complaintant:
Just wanted to let you know that we have been in touch with the City of Eugene; they have officially disassociated with Mr. Ramsey’s fundraising efforts and removed the link to his website. We informed the city that Mr. Ramsey was using the EIN associated with an inactive nonprofit organization which currently does not hold 501(c)(3) status, under the name of an organization that closed in 1995.
We have contacted Mr. Ramsey and asked him to inform any donors to date that their donations are not tax-deductible. He hasn’t responded to us yet but I anticipate that will happen in short order. I also expect changes to the website are forthcoming, but that remains to be seen.
Thanks for bringing this to our attention. Do you have any questions for me?
Public Affairs Coordinator Charitable Activities Section
Oregon Department of Justice
A lack of 501c3 status means that donations are not tax-deductible; it does not mean an organization cannot fundraise.
EW contacted Kathmandu Relief for clarification of its status and the status of donations and Ramsey responded:
Yes there was some confusion in our haste to get the site up and running so that we could provide immediate relief to Kathmandu. I was contacted, finally, by the Oregon DoJ today by email. It seems they have been talking to others but not me, and this could have been resolved in short order if they had simply done so. I've pasted below the email reply I sent to the DoJ just a few minutes ago.
We are trying to do good for the people of Kathmandu. This isn't any sort of scam or dishonest effort. I made the mistake of assuming that the Eugene Sister City Foundation (ESCF) had received their IRS determination letter for reinstatement of their 501c3 status, which had lapsed. All four of Eugene's Sister City orgs have been assisting Ki-Won Rhew, former President of the Chinju Committee, to deal with the mountain of paperwork. Since it has been about two years since we filed this process, I had wrongly assumed he had received the determination letter that would allow us to again use the ESCF EIN# in our fundraising efforts. It was a simple mistake, but has potentially serious consequences if not corrected. As you will see, I've corrected the mistake. We have a scheduled quarterly meeting of the Chairs of all four of Eugene's Sister Cities this Thursday. We meet regularly to try to build the umbrella org, ESCF, into a functional organization that can advance the causes of all of our sister city relationships.
Tips from the Better Busines Bureau:
CHARITY SCAMS SWIRL FOLLOWING NEPAL EARTHQUAKE
WA Officials Team Up to Warn Consumers on Donating Wisely
Lake Oswego, Ore. — April 27, 2015 — As the death toll climbs in Nepal following the massive earthquake over the weekend, Better Business Bureau along with Secretary of State Kim Wyman and Attorney General Bob Ferguson are urging Washingtonians to be on guard for charity scams targeting donors.
“Anytime there’s a natural disaster, scammers will try to take advantage of people’s generosity,” said Tyler Andrew, CEO of Better Business Bureau serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington. “When donating to charities, go with ones that are experienced at working with disaster victims.”
“Whenever tragedy occurs, whether it’s the earthquake in Nepal or last year’s landslide in Oso, many people instinctively want to help the victims,” Wyman said. “In times like these, there always seems to be rip-off artists who try to take advantage of others’ generosity. If people want to help the victims in Nepal, they should donate to charities they know and trust. Nobody wants to see this tragedy resulting in donations winding up in a scam artist’s pocket.”
“All of us in Washington and around the country have deep sympathy for the victims and their loved ones at this tragic time,” Ferguson said. “As you look to provide assistance to help those in need, be sure to exercise caution so your hard-earned dollars go to trusted charities, not to scam-artists.”
Consumer protection officials warn of fake charities that may look and sound legitimate online or even hijack the names of well-known organizations. Scammers will often pose as official charity agents and call potential donors, pressuring them to make a donation over the phone.
BBB, the Secretary of State and the Attorney General’s Office sympathize with the victims and their loved ones of the Nepal earthquake. All three organizations urge donors to give wisely.
- Steer clear of high-pressure demands. Take time to research charities and avoid emotional appeals that don’t explain how the charity will help victims. Contact potential charities directly.
- Use trustworthy charities. Be sure the charity is equipped and has the resources necessary to help with disaster relief. Review whether a charity meets all 20 standards of accountability at Give.org, a website run by the Council of Better Business Bureaus. Also visit the Secretary State’s Information for Donors page.
- Avoid cash donations. Write checks or pay by credit card to charities directly. Scammers will try to convince their victims to wire money or use prepaid debit cards to make a donations. Never give personal information or money to a telephone or email solicitor.
- Double-check. Watch for “pop-up” charities with unverifiable background and contact information. Unscrupulous organizations may try to trip up donors by using names that sound similar to reputable charities.
- Block social media pleas. Be wary of requests from fake victims or memorial social media accounts. Remember to verify the organization first before giving a penny.