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Do your research. It’s a sad fact that there are scam artists who are ready to take advantage of generosity after disasters by setting up sham nonprofits to collect donations. Make sure you’re giving to a legitimate, reputable charity. Use resources like Network for Good , Just Give , Charity Navigator , Great Nonprofits or the Better Business Bureau to check out nonprofit groups before you donate.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.