Natural Disaster Donations Gone Wrong: How Banks Can Help Solve This

October 4, 2018         By: John McNeel

In the age of 24-hour news cycles and social media, we are always made aware of ways in which we can donate to help others. Especially now in the height of hurricane season where natural disasters are rife and continue to dominate headlines, many charitable causes lead to spontaneous donations from those looking to help.

Just as those heart-wrenching stories of nature wreaking havoc on the lives of many elicit the natural human instinct to help in some way, along with the immediacy that digital giving can offer, they also favor deceitful scammers who take advantage of people’s generosity. People are invited to click on a link in response to a heart-rending image or story, only to realize that they have no idea if their donation is actually going to the right place or the right people. 

Unfortunately, this has become a common story echoed time and time again. The donor does not always have the opportunity or means to properly vet the organization they are giving to, and in most cases, assume their money is going to the appropriate effort when in fact, is not always the case.

A demographic that often falls victim to this is Millennials.

As a generation, Millennials value purpose, and it is reflected not only in the money they donate, but also their consumer preferences. According to a recent Cone Communications study, 9 out of 10 Millennials would switch brands in favor of one related to a cause.

So, it’s not surprising that Millennials are so drawn to charitable campaigns on GoFundMe and YouCaring, as the sites both focus on giving and have strong social media appeal. In fact, Millennials account for 33 percent of donations acquired by these sites.

However, while platforms like GoFundMe offer a convenient and electronic way to give, it never verifies the authenticity of each requestor and cause.

The same can be said about many “charities” that emerge in the wake of natural disasters. According to AARP,  shortly after Hurricane Sandy was  predicted in 2012, one thousand new websites emerged with keywords such as “relief” or “Sandy.” Many of these sites were not legitimate.

The lines of transfer and transparency have uncovered a much darker side of giving and often the who, what and where donations are actually going is a blurry muddle – and attention fades away as quickly as it came.

While it is unfortunate that urgent charitable giving has been proven untrustworthy, there are other easy, safe, and effective options for those wishing to give to important causes. 

Platforms like GoodCoin gives banks and financial institutions the opportunity to integrate giving solutions that empower donors to give to charities all through their online banking experience, providing a sense of trust and transparency. The platform not only allows donors to pick a charity of choice, they can also decide on the category of cause to which they would like to donate.

Regular seasonal disaster relief campaigns combined with the GoFundMe ‘instant charity’ phenomenon have become huge contributors to the trajectory of online charitable giving which, in turn, has led to many deceptive occurrences, signaling that there’s a need for more robust validation offered in platforms like GoodCoin. More transparent-giving platforms will be more crucial, especially as giving happens more often in real-time.

It’s a fantastic marker of current social patterns that people are giving at greater rates than ever before. And it is important that donors – and those wishing to become donors – are knowledgeable as to where they are giving their money.

Though some urgent causes are heart-rending and appear to be conveniently easy to donate to, they don’t compare to being confident about where donors’ hard-earned money has landed.

With the advent of new innovative solutions, banks and financial institutions can now answer to this demand for donors.


About John McNeel

As Co-Founder and CEO of in/PACT, John has spearheaded the development of cloud-based charitable giving solutions in the fintech, consumer goods and loyalty sectors that help companies and brands connect with their customers by empowering them to direct donations to the charities of their choice. By making giving easier, safer and smarter for digital donors, in/PACT’s mission is to help grow the world’s heart by reimagining charitable giving.

Building brands with purpose has been John’s passion for more than 25 years. After starting as a journalist and creative director, John led integrated communications agencies and global accounts in places as far flung as Paris, Istanbul, Dubai, Los Angeles, and Tokyo. During his time at Publicis Groupe and Omnicom John developed award-winning campaigns and helped deliver growth and market success for some of the world’s greatest brands.