Donate Safely to Ukraine With Vespia

Julia Ront

March 17, 2022

In wake of the invasion of Ukraine, many people are seeking to donate to different non-profit organizations to help the people of Ukraine. The tensions have caused many to question their place in this world and to wonder how they can help. However, war and chaos leave a lot of room for scammers. Anxiety and risk aversion can erode your decision-making capabilities at the worst possible time.

With so many nonprofits collecting donations during these troubled times, it can be hard to know where to send money and whether your money will reach the actual destination. With such uncertainty in the air, many may choose not to donate at all.

Just like with any charitable contribution, it is important to do some research first to know you are contributing towards a cause that is meaningful, rather than being subject to the pitfalls of scammers and unethical organizations. It's important to make sure that when you give in response to a tragedy, your money goes where it's intended.

The Charity Scammers

As the war escalates, so do the efforts by scammers to take advantage of the situation. A classical scenario is when you receive an email or a phone call soliciting donations. Scammers often prey on people’s emotions, so it’s important not to make snap decisions.

Specialists also recommend avoiding middlemen, if possible, because even your best friend on Facebook can be recommending and sharing a charity that they don’t even know is fake. Give directly to the charitable organizations that have a record of success, not intermediaries. Donating to crowdfunding campaigns and churches is not recommended, because it is difficult to trace the money and how it is going to be distributed, so do it at your own risk.

When it comes to fake nonprofit websites, long clumsy URLs containing a lot of emotional words such as “help”, “save”, “relief” can’t be trusted. It is also suspicious when the website of the organization doesn’t have a lot of information on it and again, uses a lot of emotion to lure their prey to donate without thinking. A legit nonprofit is obligated not only to provide every little detail on their website but also to make their financial data public.

A person placing a note into a box. It illustrates a donation.
Credit: Bayu Prayuda. Source: Unsplash 2022.

Due to the complications with bank transactions more business savvy scammers will approach you with a proposition to help them move some money out of Ukraine into some weird bank account through your own account. And since this whole process is complicated, you may even need to throw in some thousands of dollars of your own in the mix.

They can say that they are moving to another country (which sounds pretty realistic, many are indeed forced to leave their homes and relocate to other parts of Europe). However, I have written a short post about money mules before, and this is considered to be a money laundering crime if it turns out that you are helping to launder money through your own account.

Another way how the scammers can approach is by asking to invest in an opportunity that has only become available now. If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.

However, there are a few exceptions, such as online initiatives, like people renting apartments in the war zone on AirBnB to help the property owners. Or purchase tickets for the Kyiv Zoo to sponsor the animals and their caretakers. Again, participate in these events at your own risk.

Trust but verify

The more data you can use to make decisions, the less emotion will go into them. Ensure that your good intentions are not exploited and spot good practices by trustworthy charities and red flags commonly used by scams below:

A list of good signs and red flags to spot trustworthy charities and scams
A list of good signs and red flags to spot trustworthy charities and scams.

Keep in mind that it is not only enough to verify the business/ non-profit itself, but we at Vespia recommend always looking into the connected people, such as board members, shareholders, owners, founders. The people associated with the company are the representatives of the organization, therefore any money laundering scandals or sanctions against a specific person bring down the reputational score of the whole organization.

A quick tip from our Product Owner Artem (Ukraine): "Rather than sending your money to the organization abroad, donate to your local nonprofit. If you send the money from abroad to Ukraine, chances are the money can get stuck somewhere or the transaction will be delayed. Not to mention the transfer fees that you need to pay on top.

Your local e.g. The Red Cross has better resources and connections to transfer the money to their Ukrainian partners in an efficient way."

Vespia for Ukraine

At Vespia, we also have team members in Ukraine that we try to support, so this topic is very personal to us. We believe that instead of finding excuses not to donate, we should all find ways to contribute to helping the people of Ukraine.

To motivate the public to donate more to Ukraine and help the community, Vespia has created a free source “Donate safely to Ukraine”, where we have combined a list of verified organizations collecting donations for Ukraine.

There you can find everything you need to know about the status of the nonprofit and who are the people behind it. Furthermore, you can see if there are any sanctions imposed on the organization itself or the people inside it. Not to mention that we also show you whether there have been any money laundering scandals in the news about this organization.

Donate safely to Ukraine. Visual by Vespia
Donate safely to Ukraine

This list is being updated daily and we can verify any organization of your choosing from any part of the world. Feel free to suggest new nonprofits for us to verify by submitting a request on https://ukraine.vespia.io/, writing to us on info@vespia.io, or letting any of our Vespia team members know (you can ping me or our Growth Hacker Elena).

We are also starting a series of video interviews with different charity organizations to better understand how nonprofits operate and how the donations reach the people of Ukraine. Check out Vespia's LinkedIn page.

Donate to Ukraine with confidence!

--------

What nonprofit should we verify next? Let us know on LinkedIn or Twitter.

Have more businesses to verify? Get free credits to test Vespia. Sign up here!

Are you from Ukraine and looking to join Vespia - remotely or with relocation to Estonia? We’re hiring!