Consider The Nature Of The Charity’s WorkNot every charity responds to a disaster in the same way. Some provide medical assistance, some shelter, some food and water. Others will be more focused on either short term or long term rebuilding efforts. And some will just fundraise for other nonprofits. Think about what it is you want your philanthropic investment to accomplish and then take the time to find the charities doing that work. At Charity Navigator we link to each charity’s website so that you can quickly learn more about their plans to help.
- Give To An Established Charity
Don't let an unscrupulous charity take advantage of your goodwill. Find a charity with a proven track record of success with dealing with the type of disaster and in the region in which the disaster occurred. Avoid fly-by-night charities created specifically to deal with the new crisis. Even well-meaning new organizations will not have the infrastructure and knowledge of the region to efficiently maximize your gift. If you do feel compelled to give to a new charity, be sure to get proof that the group is in fact a registered public charity with 501 (c) (3) status.
- Designate Your Investment
Worried that your donation will go towards the charity's general operating fund or saved for a future crisis? This is a very understandable concern. Many charities do encourage donors not to designate their gifts so that the charity can decide how best to utilize the money, but depending on your confidence in the charity's ability to make that determination, you may choose to tell the charity exactly how to use your investment. By designating your gift, you'll ensure that your donation will be used as you intended. Most charities with online giving portals offer a check box feature so that you can tell the organization how to spend your contribution. If you are mailing in a check, then write a note in the memo section of the check specifying that you want your gift spent entirely on the current crisis.
Do Not Send SuppliesKnowing that people are desperately in need of basic supplies like food, water and shelter, it is hard not to want to pack up and send a box of supplies. But this type of philanthropy is simply not practical or efficient. Even if mail could get to an impacted region, no one is set up to receive these goods, much less organize and distribute them to the victims. Furthermore, charities are often able to partner with companies to acquire large amounts of in-kind donations such as bottled water and new clothing. Instead of boxing up and sending your old clothing, have a garage sale and turn your used goods into cash and donate that to a worthy charity.
- Be Smart When You Answer the Phone
Giving over the phone can be quick and easy, but you should do your due diligence before you decide to give. Beware of "sound alike" organizations that have names similar to responsible, reputable charities. You should give to organizations you know and trust. If you are at all apprehensive or want time to research and consider how much you want to give, you can aks to have a mailer or email sent to you. you can then give in the way that is most comfortable to you, whether by mailing back a check or going to the organization's website to give with your credit card.
Read Guide to Handling Telephone Appeals
- Be Careful Of Email Solicitations
Be a skeptic of email solicitations from charities you have not heard of before or haven't in some way supported or contacted. Do not follow any links within the message, and delete unsolicited emails with attachments. If you are interested in the organization and want to learn more about them, check to see if they are rated by Charity Navigator and then to contact the organization directly to learn more. Also, be very leery of people contacting you online claiming to be a victim in need of assistance. Unless you personally know someone in the impacted area, anyone alleging to be in this position is most likely part of a scam. Obviously, people affected by a large scale disaster like an earthquake, hurricane, or tsunami are in no position to contact you directly for assistance.
Read Guide to Protecting Yourself From Online Scams
- Seek Out The Charity’s Authorized Website
Criminals are likely to set up bogus sites to steal the identity and money of generous and unsuspecting individuals. We saw this after Hurricane Katrina when the FBI reported that 4,000 sites were created to do just that. So, if you plan to give online, be sure to find the charity’s legitimate site. You can safely give on Charity Navigator’s site via our partnership with Network for Good. Alternatively, we link to each charity’s authorized site so you can give there if you prefer.
- Think Before You Text
So long as you do your homework – meaning that you’ve vetted the charity and made sure that you are using the proper texting instructions- then texting can be a great way to give. Remember there may be additional costs to you to make such a gift. And it can take as much as 90 days for the charity to receive the funds.
- Be Inspired By Social Media, But Still Do Your Homework
Social networking tools like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and blogs can deliver heart-wrenching images and information about a disaster to our computers and phones. These often include pleas to donate. While these applications can be a powerful tool to inspire your desire to help, you should not blindly give via these vehicles. You must take the time to investigate the groups behind such pleas for help to ensure that it comes from a legitimate nonprofit.
- Do Not Expect Immediate Results, But Do Keep Tabs On What Your Donation Accomplishes
It takes time for charities to mobilize, to assess the problems that need to be addressed and to develop effective solutions. Donors need to be patient so charities will not feel pressured to plunge in and offer ineffective aid, simply to placate impatient donors. That doesn't mean donors shouldn't hold the charities accountable for delivering on their promises! Be sure to follow up with the charity in a few months to find out (a) how your donation was put to use and (b) if the organization needs additional support to complete the recovery effort.