By Miriam Raftery
February 25, 2022 (San Diego) – A humanitarian crisis is growing after Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine. Over 100,000 Ukrainians have fled their homes, the United Nations estimates. The UN predicts the number of refugees could reach several million, Voice of America reports. Those remaining in the Ukraine face potential food shortages, medical needs for those injured, and damage to key buildings and infrastructure.
Some legitimate aid organizations are stepping up to help Ukrainians in their homeland as well as refugees. But California Attorney General Rob Bonta issued a warning of fraudulent charities, and provided tips for how to choose reputable organizations if you wish to donate.
Here are several reputable, long-standing charities now providing aid for Ukrainians, where you can make a one-time or recurring donation:
INTERNATIONAL RESCUE COMMITTEE
The IRC is now in Poland helping displaced families from the Ukraine. Your donation can help the IRC provide food, medical care and emergency supplies to the refugees.
To donate, click here.
SAVE THE CHILDREN
Save the Children has established a Ukraine Crisis Relief Fund to provide children and families with immediate aid, such as food, water, hygiene kits, psychosocial support and cash assistance.
Save the Children is concerned for children caught in the middle of armed conflict, forced from their homes in freezing temperatures, and exposed to injury, hunger and cold. You can give to their Ukraine Crisis Relief Fund here.
UNICEF is currently on the ground in eastern Ukraine, helping children with water, health and education services in a region already hard-hit by COVID-19 and now, war.
You can give here.
The International Committee of the Red Cross is supporting the Ukrainian Red Cross. with food initiatives and repairing infrastructure, as well as helping hospitals, schools, mental health facilities and community centers.
To donate, click here.
OUTRIGHT ACTION INTERNATIONAL
OutRight Action International is helping the LGBTIQ community in Ukraine. It has launched a fundraising campaign to help people find shelter and support in nearby countries.
You can make a one-time donation here.
AVOID SCAMS OR CHARITIES LACKING EXPERIENCE
“The invasion of Ukraine is heartbreaking and unacceptable. I know that Californians, many with families and loved ones in the country, stand in solidarity with Ukraine and will be looking for any way to help its people,” he says. “However, before Californians do this, I urge them to take the necessary steps to research these charities so their contributions can go to legitimate causes. As Californians do their part to give to those in need in Ukraine, we will do our part to protect the integrity of those donations from deceptive solicitations.”
- Check Registration Status: Charities operating in California and telemarketers soliciting donations here are required to register with the Attorney General’s Registry of Charitable Trusts. They are also required to file annual financial reports, made available to the public. Prior to making a donation, confirm that the charity is registered and up-to-date with its financial reporting by searching the Attorney General’s Registry of Charitable Trusts’ database, located here.
- Give to Organizations You Trust: Do your research before giving. Review the charity’s purpose and how the charity spends its donations. How much is spent directly on the charitable cause? How much goes to overhead and employee compensation? If you choose to donate to a charity you are unfamiliar with, ask for information in writing about its programs and finances. You should also confirm the charity’s name, address, and its nonprofit status.
- Be Wary of Social Network Fundraising: If you are planning to donate through a social network solicitation, first do some research. Find out what percentage is going to the charity, whether you will be charged a fee, or if a percentage of your donation will be paid to the platform website.
- Don’t Be Pressured by Telemarketers – Ask Questions Before Donating: If you receive a call from a telemarketer, ask for the name of the fundraising organization, whether it is registered with the Attorney General’s Office, the name of the charity benefitting from the solicitation, how much of your donation will go to charity and how much to the telemarketer, and the direct telephone number of the charity. If the telemarketer tells you the donation is for a worthy organization, , check directly with the benefitting organization to confirm. Don’t fall for pressure tactics or threats. Just hang up.
- Watch Out for Similar-Sounding Names, Web Addresses, and Other Deceptive Tactics: Fraudulent organizations may use names that closely resemble those of well-established charitable organizations in order to mislead donors. Look out for fraudulent websites that have a slightly different web address (URL) than that of a legitimate charitable organization. Similar-looking URLs are sometimes purchased by fraudsters to lure in would-be donors. These sites may ask you for personal information or install harmful material onto your device. Be skeptical if someone thanks you for a pledge you never made, and always check your records.
- Understand the Difference Between “Tax-Exempt” and "Tax-Deductible": Being a nonprofit does not mean the organization is exempt from taxation, or that your donation is tax-deductible. Just because an organization has a “Tax ID Number” or provides donors with a receipt that says “keep this receipt for your records” does not mean that the organization is a charity, tax-exempt, or that your donation is tax-deductible. A few tax-exempt organizations – most notably those given 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) – are able to offer charitable tax deductions for your donations. If you are not sure whether your donation is tax-deductible, verify the charity’s tax-exempt status by using the tools and information located on the IRS website.
- Consider the Costs of Gifts and Merchandise: Gifts that you receive from a charity in exchange for your donation cost money and generally, these expenses are paid from donated funds. The value of the goods and services that you receive for your donation is not tax-deductible. Some charities may sell merchandise online and claim that “100% of the proceeds” will benefit its charitable purpose. However, this does not necessarily mean that 100% of the sales price of the merchandise will go to charity, and the cost of the merchandise itself can greatly reduce the value of your donation.
For more information on how to protect yourself and your donations, check out our donation tips webpage at oag.ca.gov/donations.
Complaints against charities that you believe have acted in bad faith can be filed at oag.ca.gov/charities/complaints.