Where to Donate and Where Not to Donate

I was going to post on a different topic this week, but given the events in Texas and Louisiana, I decided to go in a different direction.

I want to start this post by saying that my thoughts and prayers are with the people in Texas and Louisiana that are being hit hard by Hurricane Harvey. While I enjoy tracking storms (as I say in my own bio), I do not enjoy seeing people suffer like this. I hope that these areas recover and recover quickly.

Of course, some of us will try to help these areas recover quickly by giving to charities that are supposed to help hurricane victims. I deeply appreciate this desire, and people down in Texas and Louisiana will appreciate that desire as well.

However, I warn all of us to please be careful with where we give our money. I give this warning because not all charities do the positive work that they claim to do.

So how can people determine where they should or shouldn’t give their money? I have a few dos and don’ts, in no particular order:

  1. Saying this will be controversial, but don’t donate to the American Red Cross. I have to admit that this is somewhat personal, because my family in New York noticed after Superstorm Sandy that the Red Cross was more interested in photo-ops than helping people (an observation confirmed by a National Public Radio story two years later). These problems are well-documented, not just by an editorial I wrote while I was in college, but also by the sources I cited in my editorial (and, quite frankly, many sources not cited by my editorial). You want to give to a charity which has a good track record with natural disasters, and unfortunately the American Red Cross isn’t one of them.
  2. Don’t donate to a charity which lacks an established reputation. This seems obvious, yet there are so many scam charities which prey off of the big hearts of people.
  3. Do look at charity rating systems, such as Charity Navigator and the Better Business Bureau Wise Charity Alliance. Charity Navigator in particular is helpful because the organization’s pages for charities give you an idea of how transparent an organization is, what percentage of your donations go to the services a charity delivers, and more. These measurables are very important when you’re trying to determine whether to donate to a charity.
  4. Do research into what organizations have a presence in the area hit by the disaster. Speaking from my family’s experiences after Superstorm Sandy, some of the best work is usually performed by organizations that already had a presence in the area. Likewise, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the best work in Louisiana and Texas after Hurricane Harvey is performed by organizations which already have a presence in that area.
  5. If there are any charities which did particularly good work after a natural disaster you experienced, do consider donating to said charities if they are going to be in the area hit by Harvey. You want to donate to a charity which has a positive track record with handling disasters, so there’s no better way to do that than donate to charities that helped you when you had a disaster. The only condition, of course, is that the same charity will be working in the areas hit by Harvey.

Even if you follow these dos and don’ts, there’s no guarantee that you will donate to the perfect organization. But hopefully this post has increased your chances of donating to a charity which helps people recover from Hurricane Harvey. After all, being blindly unjust in a situation like this is to give money that doesn’t go directly to victims, without even realizing that your money doesn’t go to the victims.

6 Replies to “Where to Donate and Where Not to Donate”

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