The devastation following a disaster like Typhoon Haiyan often compels people around the world to want to help. Find out the most effective ways you can give so victims get the help they need, according to Charity Navigator,GuideStar and other sources.
Send money. It’s easier to get money to disaster sites than a box of supplies (in some cases, mail service may not even be operational immediately after a disaster, meaning your box may be sitting in a mail facility for a while), and charities on the ground can put your cash donation to good use by buying the most-needed items right at the site and quickly getting them where they need to go. If you have clothes or other supplies around the house you want to donate, Charity Navigator suggests instead selling them at a garage sale to raise money for an aid group.
Don’t send boxes of stuff. It’s natural to want to send the things that will fulfill a need – clothes and blankets to people who have lost everything, boxes of food to the hungry, teddy bears to comfort victims of violence. But most of the time, gifts like these hinder more than help, according to HowStuffWorks.com. For starters, charities will often already have things like blankets or clothes on hand if they know a storm is coming, or they’ll have established channels for quickly and efficiently getting clothes and food to victims. Sending money will let aid organizations buy exactly what victims need and fulfill needs that aren’t already being met. If charities request specific items, follow the group’s instructions for sending those particular things in.
Again – don’t send boxes of stuff. When boxed donations get sent to a disaster site, aid workers and volunteers have to spend time sorting through boxes to figure out what can be used and what should be thrown out before donations can be correctly labeled, packaged up and ultimately given to the people who need them, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Sending money will get the exact type of help where it’s needed most quickly.
Decide what type of work to support. There are a lot of different types of needs that pop up during an emergency, everything from immediate food, water and medical needs to long-term rebuilding projects or therapy for medical and emotional wounds. Look into the specific type of work aid groups are committing to, then give to a group with a mission you want to support.
Be wary of new groups. There are plenty of well-meaning people who set up charities to help with specific disasters, but there are also people ready to take advantage of goodwill by setting up sham charities after a disaster. Giving to established aid groups can help you make sure your money is going where you intend and that the group has experience helping in disasters. If you really want to give to a new group, get proof it has 501(c)(3) status, says Charity Navigator.
Give now, give later. Disaster recovery is often a long-term process. Making a donation a few months or a year after a disaster strikes can be extremely helpful in fulfilling ongoing needs, according to GuideStar.
Make sure you’re on a legitimate website. In addition to setting up sham charities, some scam artists out there will set up fake websites that look like charity sites to accept donations. If you’re not already familiar with the website you intend to donate through, try finding a link from a trusted source, like a reputable charity reviewer -- and avoid links that come in emails soliciting donations.
Text carefully. Texting can be an easy way to give -- as long as you make sure you’re texting the correct number and giving to a real group. Research nonprofits and make sure you’re following texting instructions correctly before donating via text. Also, find out whether there are any additional costs if you give via a text message.
Beware of telemarketers. There are two things to watch out for when it comes to phone-solicited donations. First, are you being contacted by a real charity? If you feel compelled to donate, ask the telemarketer to send you information about the group so you can look into it first, then send them a check or donate online instead of giving your credit card information over the phone.
Second, how much of this money will actually go to the charity? Professional telemarketers usually charge nonprofits fees for their services. Charity Navigator recommends asking the telemarketer how much of your donation will be given to the charity -- or even better, just give directly to the organization instead of through the telemarketer.
Read emails cautiously. If you receive an unsolicited email asking for donations, be wary. Someone who suddenly emails you claiming to be a victim or nonprofit working to help may not be who they claim to be. Charity Navigator recommends not responding to unsolicited emails and never opening attachments.