Haiyan Damage

Homes have been devastated by Haiyan

On Nov. 8, 2013 the Philippines were devastated by typhoon Haiyan. Thousands have died and officials say millions will need some form of aid in the recovery process.

In many areas people are at a loss for how they’ll find food and clean drinking water over the next few days.

As people learn about the details in the aftermath of Haiyan, many are wondering what they can do to help. Donating to charitable organizations is a great place to start. Although a lot of organizations are providing immediate relief to those affected by the storm, such as the World Vision UK Philippines Typhoon Appeal, it is very important to do a little research on the organizations before making a donation.

In recent years several organizations have operated shady fundraising schemes where much of the money received never made it to the cause it was supposed to help. For example, after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, an Associated Press investigation uncovered that one Arizona-based charity took in $700,000 for a memorial quilt that was never created.

Another report indicated that Urban Life Ministries, a New York-based charity, collected $4 million for 9/11 efforts and only filed $670,000 on their tax forms.

It’s unfortunate that certain charities attempt to profit from disasters and relief efforts, but one way to stop them is to be more careful about who we choose to receive our contributions.

Tip #1 – Donate to Established Charities

One way to ensure you’re making a donation to a trusted charity is to make a contribution to a well-respected organization. This means donating to an organization with a proven track record for responding to disasters.

Tip #2 – Avoid Making Donations over the Phone

In some cases making a donation over the phone means third-party telemarketers are collecting a percentage of your donation for doing the work. It’s always best to deal with the charity organization directly.

Tip #3 – Don’t Donate with Cash

An organization that asks for a cash donation may be a warning sign. With a cash donation it is difficult to track whether your donation is actually going to the charity. If a charity suggests cash or a wire transfer, the Federal Trade Commission says to be very cautious.

Tip #4 – Don’t Fall for Prizes

One of the easiest ways to determine if a charity is running a scam is when they offer some type of reward or prize for donating. If you’re told you have the chance to win something by making a contribution, it’s time to find another charity.

Tip #5 – Pick the Relief Effort

People are often encouraged to donate following a disaster and prefer to know that their funds are going to help out the cause that motivated them to donate. A lot of well-known charities will allow you to select a specific relief effort so you know where your donation will be utilized.

If you come across a charity that you’re not familiar with and want to make sure they’re a trusted organization before donating, you can check their credentials at Charity Navigator. Charity Navigator inspects the financial efficiency of more than 5,000 organizations.