Stretching Your Donation Dollars: 5 Tips


Published:

FWC Division of Law Enforcement storm response Hurricane Harvey; August 29, 2017.

photo by Avery Bristol, Flickr CC

Many Americans want to help the people suffering from Hurricane Harvey and its unprecedented floods.

There’s no shortage of media reports listing which groups are taking donations, often with scant guidance about what kinds of relief these organizations can offer.

Having researched giving in the wake of disasters and taught students how to be effective philanthropists, I’ve learned that it’s hard to make good decisions regarding donations – especially when there are many urgent needs and countless ways to spend charitable dollars. Here are some best practices you may want to consider before you contribute.

Give Money, Not Goods

The ideal way to show your compassion is to donate money to a charity that you respect, rather than shipping cartons of diapers and cases of canned chili.

It’s easy to think of disasters in personal terms: “What if it were me or my family?” and picture what you’d need if you suddenly became homeless: clothes, food or toys. But goods given during emergencies often go to waste. These donations can even do more harm than good when they interfere with disaster response efforts.

Besides, you aren’t likely to know what people on the (drenched) ground need.

Donate To Organizations Operating On The Scene

But where should you send that money? It’s generally a good idea to support groups operating in the midst of the disaster. They can give money and other aid to the people who need it directly.

But first, do your homework to learn about an organization’s past performance. Established organizations are usually your best bet because they are the most apt to have staff, experience, infrastructure and roots in affected communities. National organizations like the Red Cross and the Salvation Army have long track records in disaster response.

Every disaster raises questions about established organizations’ relief efforts, such as how the Red Cross spent funds donated after Superstorm Sandy on public relations stunts and other activities not directly tied to relief efforts, and the Salvation Army’s decision to hold back relief after that same disaster to spend later on in the recovery process. When you give, it’s important to keep that history in mind.

If you prefer to give locally, support groups firmly rooted in the affected area. In Harvey’s aftermath, that might mean the United Way of Greater Houston and the Greater Houston Community Foundation, which both have established relief funds and a long history of service to the local community.

You can screen organizations using tools like Charity Navigator, which rates nonprofits based on several performance metrics. It has compiled a list of highly rated Texas groups involved in relief efforts. Guidestar is another useful resource. While it does not rate charities, it provides basic financial data about them and allows nonprofits to upload information about their programs and results that you can use to help make your giving decisions. Guidestar also offers guidelines about giving during disasters and a list of groups active in the relief effort.

Support Established Nonprofits

Sometimes new groups sprout up to respond to catastrophes like the ones now unfolding in Texas that seem tailor-made for supporting people in distress but have some shortcomings.

When I studied the philanthropic response after the 9/11 attacks, I found that more than 250 new organizations emerged to meet the needs of people affected by that disaster. New organizations can play important roles, particularly those connected to marginalized groups, like immigrants, who may not trust established institutions. That was the case with the Windows of Hope Family Relief Fund, an organization I advised after 9/11.

But it can take time for new groups to get up and running, and in the meantime there’s no track record for donors to check out. While most new organizations are led by people moved to make a difference, some are opportunists committing fraud, like the founders of the Hurricane Sandy Relief Foundation. Fundraising services like the GoFundMe campaigns established to help Harvey victims pose the same risks if they are not tied to established organizations.

If you itemize your taxes and plan to deduct your contribution, note that you can do so only if the IRS has certified the organization’s nonprofit status. Most contributions to new nonprofits and GoFundMe campaigns aren’t tax-deductible. But gifts to the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, which the city of Houston has already established, are.

Consider Long-Term Priorities

Photos and video clips of streets transformed into rivers, stranding residents, can create an urge to make a difference immediately. But, as recent disasters like Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Katrina showed, the needs are sure to mount. That’s why more than one in four of organizations created after 9/11 was still providing relief five years later.

Be mindful that people in Houston, Rockport and other afflicted areas in Texas, and possibly Louisiana, will need our money long after Harvey stops making headlines. Your donation may matter six months or even years from now as much as it does today. Nonetheless, donation forms may offer you the option to indicate how you want your contribution used – including having it spent right away if you feel strongly about it.

Maximize The Speed And Size Of Your Gift

Many nonprofits are encouraging people to donate by sending texts, an approach that may seem like the fastest way to give.

But wireless companies tend to wait until you officially cover the donation’s cost – by paying your bill – before passing that money along to the charity. That can delay payments by weeks or even months.

If getting your money to Houston or another community fast is your top concern, make online donations with a credit card or a debit card. Even “a check in the mail” would transmit funds faster than texting, says Brian Mittendorf, who teaches accounting at the Ohio State University Fisher College of Business.

Mittendorf also cautions that giving through crowdfunding can mean that intermediaries skim fees that might otherwise go to disaster relief or another cause you support. Credit card companies also usually collect transaction fees.

In short, being an informed donor is the best way you can start to make a difference for the people who have lost their homes, cars and more.

David Campbell, Associate Professor of Public Administration at Binghamton University, State University of New York, has devoted his career to research and practice in the nonprofit sector. His research interests address a range of critical nonprofit management issues, including accountability and performance measurement; organizational emergence and adaptation (specifically in response to disaster); and mergers and other forms of restructuring.

This article was republished from The Conversation.

See also:
Do Not Send Us Bottles of Water. Instead, Join Us In A Revolt
Are Your Charitable Donations Ending Up in the Pockets of Professional Fundraisers?

Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Daily Astrology

September 24, 2017

From the wee hours of the morning until midnight the Scorpio Moon orbits void of course. The lackadaisical atmosphere is curiously fortified by Mars’ opposition to Neptune. If you have the opportunity to see a dream come true, go for it. On the other…
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Alternative Health Directory

Browse all listings »

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

September 2017

Healthy living, healthy planet lifestyle expo with LOHAS niche vendors, hands-on bodywork, labyrinth meditation, workshops, local food cafe, food trucks and a screening of the soon to be...

Cost: $25

Where:
The Reggie Lewis Center
1350 Tremont St
Roxbury Crossing, MA  02120
View map »


Sponsor: Natural Awakenings Boston
Telephone: 617-906-0232
Contact Name: Maisie Raftery
Website »

More information

Ever wondered what, exactly, people mean when they describe someone as “an intuitive?” Do you feel you might have some of these abilities that are untapped at this moment? This workshop...

Cost: $25 per person

Where:
The Studio at One Earth
191 Emery Mills Road
Shapleigh, ME  04076
View map »


Sponsor: The Studio at One Earth
Telephone: 207-636-2500
Contact Name: The Studio at One Earth
Website »

More information

January 14 - December 9, 2017 With Tom Frederick Novice — This 12-month program is designed to assist you on your journey to spiritual enlightenment. Here we study a variety of esoteric...

Cost: $1300

Where:
Women of Wisdom
118 Washington Street
North Easton, MA  02356
View map »


Sponsor: Women of Wisdom
Telephone: 508-230-3680
Contact Name: Women of Wisdom
Website »

More information

How long does it take to change your life? The blink of an eye! Learn two spiritual secrets to success and walk out the door at 6pm into a new life!

Cost: $25

Where:
Doubletree Hotel
Milford, MA


Sponsor: Rhys Thomas Institute
Website »

More information

Sunday Reiki treatments with Reiki master and practitioner Linda Simons in Brookline, MA. Start your week off on a more balanced note with a Reiki treatment on a Sunday afternoon. Please join me...

Cost: Sliding Scale $20-$40

Where:
233 Harvard Street
Suite 36
Brookline, MA  02446
View map »


Telephone: 617-304-2205
Contact Name: LInda Simons
Website »

More information

Guided loving kindness meditation every Sunday at HeartSong Spiritual Wellness. No charge to attend. Donations are appreciated to help support this non-profit wellness center. Read more:...

Cost: Free

Where:
HeartSong Spiritual Wellness
23 Pine Street
Milford, MA  01757
View map »


Sponsor: HeartSong
Contact Name: Jacki Rose
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

January 14 - December 9, 2017 With Tom Frederick Novice — This 12-month program is designed to assist you on your journey to spiritual enlightenment. Here we study a variety of esoteric...

Cost: $1300

Where:
Women of Wisdom
118 Washington Street
North Easton, MA  02356
View map »


Sponsor: Women of Wisdom
Telephone: 508-230-3680
Contact Name: Women of Wisdom
Website »

More information

Are you interested in natural birth control or are you trying to or planning to conceive? We’ll talk about the benefits of charting your cycles.

Cost: Free

Where:
The Democracy Center
45 Mt. Auburn St.
Cambridge, MA  02139
View map »


Sponsor: AC Fertility Awareness
Telephone: 617-899-7624
Contact Name: Anna Churchill
Website »

More information

18-month immersion course for the awake soul with Rev. Michelle Renee Pelletier, founding director of the Center for Psychic Healing.

Where:
248 Main Street
Harwich, MA
View map »


Telephone: 707-849-7793
Website »

More information

The Daoist Benevolent Association offers free classes on traditional Wudang style tai chi. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Brown School
42 Milk St Newburyport
Newburyport, MA  01950
View map »


Sponsor: Daoist Benevolent Association
Telephone: 978-462-4617
Contact Name: Barbara
Website »

More information

Nancy's therapeutic and healing nature stems from her own personal journey through health struggles. Her style is open to everyone, no matter physical or mental challenges, or age....

Cost: $15 drop in or $12 with 10 class bundle

Where:
HeartSong Spiritual Wellness
23 Pine Street
Milford, MA  01757
View map »


Sponsor: HeartSong Spiritual Wellness Center
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

January 14 - December 9, 2017 With Tom Frederick Novice — This 12-month program is designed to assist you on your journey to spiritual enlightenment. Here we study a variety of esoteric...

Cost: $1300

Where:
Women of Wisdom
118 Washington Street
North Easton, MA  02356
View map »


Sponsor: Women of Wisdom
Telephone: 508-230-3680
Contact Name: Women of Wisdom
Website »

More information

Release old negative self-beliefs, let go of negative body image thoughts, explore how the media fools us into believing how we “should” look and the reality of who we are. We try...

Cost: $45

Where:
Integrated Psychotherapy
31 Hastings Street
Mendon, MA  01756
View map »


Telephone: 508-473-1200
Contact Name: Sherri Snyder, MA, LMHC
Website »

More information

The Daoist Benevolent Association offers free classes on traditional Wudang style tai chi. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Brown School
42 Milk St Newburyport
Newburyport, MA  01950
View map »


Sponsor: Daoist Benevolent Association
Telephone: 978-462-4617
Contact Name: Barbara
Website »

More information

One-of-a-kind, life changing holistic health education program again being offered free of charge Local business owner shares groundbreaking mind-body-spirit course to combat obesity epidemic...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wilbraham Senior Center
45 Post Office Park
#4502
Wilbraham, MA  01095
View map »


Sponsor: Harmony Way
Telephone: 413-636-2475
Contact Name: Michelle Caron
Website »

More information

Beginner Kripalu Yoga with Lisa Davidson Brand new to yoga or returning after a break, this class is kind and challenging for your body, relaxing and destressing for your mind, and will help you...

Cost: $113 for 7 weeks

Where:
A Yoga Leaf
@ Whimsy
686 Worcester Rd.
Framingham, MA  01702
View map »


Sponsor: Lisa Davidson
Contact Name: Lisa Davidson
Website »

More information

A unique divine healing meditation, lead by Bhavna, to help you in your life; with your relationships, money, work and family. Also, the meditation helps with letting go to release...

Cost: $10

Where:
Bhavna’s Wellness Group
512 Main St.
Penthouse Suite
Shrewsbury, MA  01545
View map »


Sponsor: Bhavna’s Wellness Group
Telephone: 508-970-5620
Contact Name: Krista Bennett
Website »

More information

Daoist Priest Zhou Xuanyun teaches traditional Wudang style kung fu.

Cost: $110/month

Where:
Boston Ultimate Fitness
72 Beach Street (4th Floor)
Boston, MA  02111
View map »


Sponsor: Daoist Gate Wudang Arts
Telephone: 508-245-8305
Contact Name: Zhou Xuanyun
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

January 14 - December 9, 2017 With Tom Frederick Novice — This 12-month program is designed to assist you on your journey to spiritual enlightenment. Here we study a variety of esoteric...

Cost: $1300

Where:
Women of Wisdom
118 Washington Street
North Easton, MA  02356
View map »


Sponsor: Women of Wisdom
Telephone: 508-230-3680
Contact Name: Women of Wisdom
Website »

More information

This gentle yoga class is good for all skill levels. Scheduled perfectly in the middle of your week; the movements will be a welcome respite to your usual morning routine.

Cost: $10

Where:
Bhavna’s Wellness Group
512 Main St.
Penthouse Suite
Shrewsbury, MA  01545
View map »


Sponsor: Bhavna’s Wellness Group
Telephone: 508-970-5620
Contact Name: Krista Bennett
Website »

More information

Qigong is an amazing practice used to prevent and heal disease. Qigong is a series of flowing and repeated movements, stretches and breathing exercises. Qigong movements are gentle and easy to...

Cost: $12

Where:
The Arlington Center
369 Mass Ave
Arlington, MA
View map »


Sponsor: Maryellen LaBelle
Telephone: 781-710-4325
Contact Name: Maryellen LaBelle
Website »

More information

Weekly yoga classes with Rev. Michelle Caron, RMT, CYT, ZIN of Harmony Way on Wednesdays at 12:15 PM and Fridays at 9:30 AM at the Wilbraham Senior Center. Class welcomes all ages and uses a...

Cost: $5

Where:
Wilbraham Senior Center
45 Post Office Park, #4502
Wilbraham, MA  01095
View map »


Sponsor: Harmony Way
Telephone: 413-636-2475
Contact Name: Rev. Michelle Caron, RMT, CYT, ZIN
Website »

More information

With Lisa Rockenmacher and Kristan Bishop Looking for a deeper connection with bliss? Seeking practical ways to increase wellness and health in all aspect of your life? Do you desire a...

Cost: $100

Where:
YogaLife Institute of NH
6 Chestnut Street
Lower Level
Exeter, NH  03833
View map »


Sponsor: YogaLife Institute of NH
Telephone: 603-969-8968
Contact Name: Brian Serven
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

January 14 - December 9, 2017 With Tom Frederick Novice — This 12-month program is designed to assist you on your journey to spiritual enlightenment. Here we study a variety of esoteric...

Cost: $1300

Where:
Women of Wisdom
118 Washington Street
North Easton, MA  02356
View map »


Sponsor: Women of Wisdom
Telephone: 508-230-3680
Contact Name: Women of Wisdom
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

January 14 - December 9, 2017 With Tom Frederick Novice — This 12-month program is designed to assist you on your journey to spiritual enlightenment. Here we study a variety of esoteric...

Cost: $1300

Where:
Women of Wisdom
118 Washington Street
North Easton, MA  02356
View map »


Sponsor: Women of Wisdom
Telephone: 508-230-3680
Contact Name: Women of Wisdom
Website »

More information

Connect, breathe and guide your space within. Bring peace and healing to the mind, body and soul. This workshop offers an introduction to the therapeutic principles of the didgeridoo and a basic...

Cost: $35

Where:
YogaLife Institute of NH
6 Chestnut Street
Exeter, NH  03833
View map »


Sponsor: YogaLife Institute of NH
Telephone: 603-969-8968
Contact Name: Brian Serven
Website »

More information

Weekly yoga classes with Rev. Michelle Caron, RMT, CYT, ZIN of Harmony Way on Wednesdays at 12:15 PM and Fridays at 9:30 AM at the Wilbraham Senior Center. Class welcomes all ages and uses a...

Cost: $5

Where:
Wilbraham Senior Center
45 Post Office Park, #4502
Wilbraham, MA  01095
View map »


Sponsor: Harmony Way
Telephone: 413-636-2475
Contact Name: Rev. Michelle Caron, RMT, CYT, ZIN
Website »

More information

Daoist Priest Zhou Xuanyun teaches traditional Wudang style kung fu.

Cost: $110/month

Where:
Boston Ultimate Fitness
72 Beach Street (4th Floor)
Boston, MA  02111
View map »


Sponsor: Daoist Gate Wudang Arts
Telephone: 508-245-8305
Contact Name: Zhou Xuanyun
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

A day of wellness discussions, meditation, and mini sessions of Reiki, massage, acupuncture, card readings, and more.

Cost: $40 pre-register, $60 at the door

Where:
Bhavna’s Wellness Group
512 Main Street
Penthouse Suite
Shrewsbury, MA  01545
View map »


Telephone: 508-970-5620
Website »

More information

January 14 - December 9, 2017 With Tom Frederick Novice — This 12-month program is designed to assist you on your journey to spiritual enlightenment. Here we study a variety of esoteric...

Cost: $1300

Where:
Women of Wisdom
118 Washington Street
North Easton, MA  02356
View map »


Sponsor: Women of Wisdom
Telephone: 508-230-3680
Contact Name: Women of Wisdom
Website »

More information

Colds, fevers, bites, bumps and stomach aches. 10 remedies and more to have on hand. Hands on: Make an herbal emergency medicine kit. $40 drop in. $30 each with a friend and $60 off to sign...

Cost: $40 drop in. $30 each with a friend and $60 off to sign up for the series.

Where:
Opening Lotus Yoga
456 Main Street
Holden, MA  01520
View map »


Sponsor: Hillside Herbals
Telephone: 508-847-8615
Contact Name: Rachel Ross
Website »

More information

Join us with instructor Chuck Raffoni for a super fun night of relaxing and recharging! Let yourself “glow with the flow” as our studio is magically transformed for an illuminating...

Cost: $25

Where:
Windsoul Studio
440 Middlesex Rd
Tyngsboro, MA  01879
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags