Sandy Hook: How Business Owners Can Show Respect and Support

The Sandy Hook shootings have prompted an outpouring of support. Here's how your company can help, from having a moment of silence to donating financially.
Freelance Writer, Self-employed
December 20, 2012

The shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut on Dec. 14 have prompted an outpouring of support from businesses and individuals across the nation. Here are some ways you and your company can show respect, help remember the victims and provide assistance to the survivors, their community and the country.

A Moment of Silence

Connecticut Governor Daniel Malloy has requested for a moment of silence 9:30 a.m. Eastern time on Friday, Dec. 21. Malloy also proclaimed the date a day of mourning for the state and asked houses of worship and government buildings to ring bells 26 times at that time, one for each victim of the Newtown homicides. The Connecticut governor has also asked governors of other states to issue similar proclamations.

Sending Sympathy

Causes.com created an online national sympathy card for the victims, families and the community. The website provides free tools for people to communicate, generate support and raise funds for various causes. Less than a week after the shootings, the online card had gathered more than 2.2 million signatures.

Financial Support

Individual funds and scholarships. Businesses can also express support financially. Funds have been set up in the names of many of the individual victims of the shootings and their families. Some will provide financial assistance to victims’ families. Others will fund scholarships in victims’ names, or assist various causes selected by victims’ families as appropriate.

These individual funds have all been created since the shootings and have only brief track records. Contributions to some may not be tax-deductible and it can be difficult for donors to get reliable information about organizers. Existing non-profit community organizations have, however, set up several funds that will provide support to the town and to individuals affected by the shootings.

Sandy Hook School Support Fund. United Way of Western Connecticut, the local branch of the umbrella non-profit organization for approximately 1,800 community organizations in 45 countries, has created the Sandy Hook School Support Fund to “provide support services to the families and community that has been affected.” 

The Newtown Rotary Sandy Hook School Fund. The Newtown Rotary Club, like United Way also an established non-profit service organization, set up The Newtown Rotary Sandy Hook School Fund. Funds will help victims’ families, surviving students and school employees, emergency responders and counseling agencies with funeral expenses, medical needs and living expenses. 

Donations to Caroline's Gift. Newtown Youth and Family Services is requesting donations to Caroline’s Gift, an existing fund created in 1996 by a local family in memory of a daughter. The organization, which describes itself as a non-profit mental health clinic and youth service bureau, uses Caroline’s Gift funds to assist Newtown families with children’s physical and mental health needs.

Newtown Parent Connection. Newtown Parent Connection is another existing non-profit local group providing services to local families and kids. The organization was set up in 1993 and provides counseling and assistance for families and kids affected by substance abuse. The website says all donations will go to families and community affected by the tragedy.

National Alliance on Mental Illness. In addition to these community-specific resources, businesses may want to support organizations that address issues raised by the shootings on a national scale. For instance, the National Alliance on Mental Illness is a nationwide charitable non-profit whose efforts support education efforts and  awareness-raising initiatives relating to mental health.

Brady Center and Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. The killings have set off what promises to be a lengthy and extensive discussion about ways to prevent future mass shootings. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence is an advocacy group that seeks to require criminal background checks on all gun sales, ban military-style assault weapons and otherwise control and limit the purchase and possession of firearms.

Brady Campaign donations are not tax-deductible because the group’s aim is to pass legislation. Donations to the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, which focuses on public education and lawsuits targeting illegal gun dealers, are, however, tax-deductible.

Check Your Chosen Charity Before Donating

Widely publicized tragedies often attract criminals who create phony charities and solicit contributions from people who want to help. Would-be donors can check out charitable organizations through the Wise Giving Alliance at the Better Business Bureau. Newer funds may not have any track record, however.

Most states require charitable organizations to register with state attorneys general. Their offices may be able to provide information as well. There are also independent groups set up to report on charities.

Charity Watch. CharityWatch is a 20-year-old nonprofit charity watchdog and information service that gives letter grade ratings, along with figures on financial performance, at 600 major American charities.

Charity Navigator. Charity Navigator is a 10-year-old group that evaluates the financial health, transparency and other factors of tax-exempt 501(c) (3) organizations that file Form 990 reports with the Internal Revenue Services. It looks at charities that receive at least $1 million in annual public and governmental support and have been around for at least four years.

Charity Navigator also provides a brief guide to selecting a charity to support in the wake of a crisis like the Newtown shootings. Among its recommendations are to give to established charities with proven track records for dealing with the specific types of disaster in the region where it occurred. Newly created charities may lack experience and organization to effectively apply donations where they will do the most good, the group warns.

Among other tips, Charity Navigators advises obtaining proof that a group is a registered public charity with 501 (c) (3) status. The group suggests donors avoid telemarketers and email appeals and make donations through the organization’s authorized website or by mailing a check to the address. It’s common today for people soliciting funds to set up Facebook pages, but Charity Navigator warns that donors should investigate further to ensure the pleas come from legitimate nonprofits.

How will you be helping? We'd love to hear in the comments. 

Photo: Getty Images