Following the devastating earthquake in Haiti, many generous people are eager to help by donating. If you’re among them, make sure you’re giving to a legitimate organization that‘s in a position to actually provide assistance, warns the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance, a charity watchdog.
Scammers often respond to disasters quickly by setting up fake charities and registering Web addresses in various combinations that sound like legitimate groups or that seem related to the disaster.
Another concern is that some bona fide charities seeking donations may not be in a position to help in Haiti, immediately or long-term. Some groups don’t actually have an on-the-ground presence in the country. Some merely collect money on behalf of other organizations, the BBB warns. And some charities spend little on their charitable programs, compared to fund-raising or administration.
• Give to a well-known, top-rated organization. The White House Web site is recommending that those who want to help immediately with the relief effort donate to the American Red Cross Haiti relief and development efforts International Response Fund, which responds to international disasters. It says you can donate $10 through your cell phone by texting "HAITI" to "90999." Alternatively, you can go to the group’s general donation page.
There you can donate to Haiti Relief and Development, or to other intiatives, such as the International Response Fund, which gives the Red Cross
the option of using the money in Haiti or to address any other crisis
if needed. For further ways to help the White House recommends visiting the Center for International Disaster Information.
When donating to the Red Cross or any group, be sure to indicate whether you want to be contacted by email or otherwise, if given that option. With some groups, you may have to opt out to avoid being sent additional info that you may not want.
The Wise Giving Alliance has provided a list of top-rated charities that are providing—or are seeking to provide—help in Haiti, including the American Red Cross.
Another charity watchdog, Charity Navigator, has provided a similar list. posted a list of 31 charities that can help, including the American Red Cross. You can use the group’s interactive world map to find an expanded list of top-rated groups that provide assistance to Haiti. As of Wednesday, it had listed 44 organizations. Charity Navigator also provides tips for giving in a crisis and for protecting yourself from online charity scams.
• Beware of email appeals or phone calls. Unsolicited email or calls may come from scammers trying to sound like they’re a legitimate, well-known charity. Don’t click on links in email. Instead, use a Web search to find a specific organization or, if you know the URL, type it directly in your browser. Sometimes legitimate groups hire direct mail or telephone telemarketers who take a substantial portion of the donation. It’s always best to give directly to an organization that you know can help and bypass any middleman.• Money is best. Monetary contributions are better than food or other goods, which are difficult to collect and transport, particularly in an area with little infrastructure.
• Don’t forget long-term aid. Haiti, one of the poorest countries in the Western hemisphere, will have long-term needs that go far beyond the relief effort. As with immediate assistance, research any group thoroughly to make sure it’s legitimate and is in a position to help. Along with the BBB Wise Giving Alliance and Charity Navigator, you can check the charity watchdog American Institute of Philanthropy.—Anthony Giorgianni