US (11/08/2012) - When a crisis such as the recent hurricane that debilitated the east coast up to New England it's not uncommon for men and women with no connection to the areas devastated by such disasters to donate money to help the communities rebound and rebuild. Donations sparked by tragedies such as the Joplin tornado are commonly referred to as "crisis giving," which also occurred in the aftermath of other notable disasters, including the tornado that tore through Joplin in 2011 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Crisis giving can bring out the best in donors, many of whom will donate as much as they possibly can in spite of the sacrifices their donation requires. But crisis giving isn't as simple as generous men and women may think, and it's good to follow a few guidelines when donating during a crisis.
* Be on the lookout for criminals. Crisis giving brings out many people's generosity, but it also brings criminals out of the proverbial woodwork. Criminals may establish fake charities designed to entice donors who just want to donate to a cause as quickly as possible. These charities may present themselves as another reputable charity, establishing Web sites that appear legitimate to the naked eye. Thousands of such sites were discovered in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, so if donating online, be certain that the Web site you're using really is the authorized site of the charity to which you plan to donate.
In addition, many criminals will solicit donations via e-mail. If you haven't requested information from a charity, delete these e-mails before opening them. If you mistakenly open them, do not open any attachments, which may contain viruses.
* Investigate donations made via text message. Donating via text message may seem like a great way to ensure your donation makes an immediate impact. After all, such donations can be made in a matter of seconds. However, Charity Navigator, a nonprofit evaluator of charities, notes that it can take as many as 90 days for a charity to receive funds donated via text message. Your donation might prove more immediate if you donate in a traditional way.
* Designate your donation. If you're donating to a charity for a specific reason, such as Hurricane Isaac relief, then designate your donation when making it. Many charities allow donors to make this designation when they donate via the organization's Web site. If you choose not to designate your donation, then your money may very well go toward the charity's operating costs, which benefits the charity but not the victims of the crisis whom you were intending to help.
* Value reputation when crisis giving. Choose a charitable organization with a proven track record of handling disaster relief. Such organizations have already proven their mettle and are likely to make the most out of your donation. This isn't to say start-up charities born of specific tragedies aren't well-intentioned or incapable, but more established charities might be in a better position to handle crisis situations than start-ups.
* Avoid sending care packages. Natural disasters tend to produce harrowing images of victims forced to go without basic needs like food, water and shelter. This tends to inspire men and women to send care packages consisting of food, water, blankets, and other items they feel will help in a time of crisis. Unfortunately, these goods are not likely to reach any victims, as established charities likely already have agreements and plans in place to distribute necessities provided by a host of companies. While donating care packages is well-intentioned, financial donations are more valuable during a time of crisis.
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