Natural disasters have a tendency to bring out the best in most people. The level of monetary contributions and volunteer efforts is impressive when we come together to support those who have been dealt terrible blows by Mother Nature.
Unfortunately, these types of events also bring out the worst in a few people who look to line their own pockets by preying on the generosity of others. To ensure the money you’re donating is utilized for the intended purpose, check out any organizations calling for donations, especially if you have never heard of them. There are several places to turn for up-to-date information regarding the validity of charitable organizations:
- IRS – The IRS offers an “Exempt Organizations Checklist” at www.irs.gov/Charities-&-Non-Profits/Exempt-Organizations-Select-Check. Click “Exempt Organizations Select Check Tool” then click “Are eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions,” then “Download Organizations Eligible to Receive Tax-Deductible Contributions.” Alternatively, you can type in the entity name after clicking “Are eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions” if you just want to check on one organization and you have the correct name.
- Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) – FEMA’s website includes a list of national organizations that are active in disaster recovery work. The website is: www.aidmatrixnetwork.org/CashDonations/Default2.aspx?ST=FEMA#. Furthermore, they share a link to the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster’s (VOAD) website at voad.org/network. From here you can look at both state-level and national members.
- Better Business Bureau (BBB) – The BBB (www.bbb.com) includes the ability to look for charities in your area. I find this to be an easier site to maneuver around than the other two.
- Charity Navigator at www.charitynavigator.org. This site is specifically set up to allow reviewing of the validity and performance of non-profits. With these resources available, it will take just a few minutes to check whether the organization you are considering donating to is legitimate. In addition, you want to be sure they have a good track record of getting most of the money they collect to the victims of the disaster. Even if you think you are familiar with a charity, check it out because imposters will use names that are deceptively similar to well-known charities to rake in money.