For those looking to provide relief to the millions in the path of Hurricane Irma which made landfall in Florida on Sunday, it pays to do your research. While help is desperately needed, giving wisely with a healthy amount of skepticism is key.
Wondering what to donate? USAID’s Center for International Disaster Information is a good place to start. The organization’s guidelines suggest giving money rather than materials or volunteer hours is the best way to maximize your impact. “Financial contributions allow professional relief organizations to purchase exactly what is most urgently needed by disaster survivors, when it is needed,” CIDI says. “Cash donations allow relief supplies to be purchased near the disaster site, avoiding delays, and steep transportation and logistical costs that can encumber material donations.”
However, not all charities operate at the same level of efficiency when it comes to donations. If you’re looking to do some sleuthing, Charity Navigator provides financial data on an expansive list of organizations, including the Red Cross which has been under fire in the past for its failed response to the 2010 earthquake Haiti and Hurricane Sandy in 2012. A ProPublica report last year showed local officials in Louisiana were angered by the charity’s inept handling of Sandy, expressing frustration over the lack of management at Red Cross shelters. Proof was obtained through FOIA requests for government emails and documents.
Regardless of how you choose to give and where, before you choose to send off that donation text, a few minutes of research is worth it to maximize every penny.