As we have all watched the horror of Hurricane Harvey decimating Southeast Texas, we empathize with the men, women, children, animals, and businesses that have been impacted. Some lost their lives; others lost everything else.
During the tragedy, we witnessed friends, neighbors, and strangers coming to the aid of people and animals in distress. Heroic rescues have been captured on video, giving us firsthand accounts of human compassion at its finest.
As the threat of Hurricane Harvey passes, we see people from all over the nation begin to help financially. We feel compelled and want to help in some way. There are hundreds of organizations serving the affected region that are already receiving the incredible outpouring of support from fellow Americans. Our capacity to care and act in a crisis is one of the greatest traits of human beings.
And, just as the goodness of Americans can yield an awesome amount of money and resources for good, the ugly side of our modern-day culture also rises to exploit the disaster and steal from intended recipients. There are already many scams circulating over social media and other digital formats that appear legitimate but are not. These scammers are acting out of greed and are taking advantage of our human compassion.
Please don’t let this be a reason for not giving, but be wise in how you give. The needs of Hurricane Harvey’s victims are great and will require everything we can give – and more. Here are a few guidelines that will help keep you from unintentionally giving to the wrong people.
If you wish to respond through digital or social media, do not click on any link provided in a message or post. Instead, go to your browser and manually enter the website or the organization you desire to support. An embedded link may take you to a website that may look legitimate, but may, in fact, be a façade for a scam.
If you are giving to or through a local organization, find out what organization they are partnering with to distribute money and/or supplies in a responsible way. Another common trick is for scammers to park a truck or trailer and advertise as a drop-off location for disaster supplies. They later sell the supplies for their own personal gain.
Give only to organizations that can and will account for your gift. If you are giving money, you should receive an acknowledgement and receipt for tax purposes with the nonprofit’s tax id number. While free concerts, barbecues, and crowd funding invitations seeking spontaneous giving may seem like a good way to help, there is often no record of donations and no accountability for how funds will be distributed.
Give to and through organizations you already trust. They have proven to be good stewards of your resources. They should have answers to any of your questions about how donated resources will be distributed.
Give to organizations that deal with immediate needs, but also consider giving to organizations that will be in the trenches long after the media attention dies down.
When in doubt, give to credible national organizations. If still in doubt, check out the organization on Charity Navigator – a website dedicated to nonprofit accountability.