Virtually every day of the week we see a new disaster in the news. Earthquakes, tsunamis, flooding and mudslides, war causing evacuations and human misery in each situation. It breaks our hearts and causes us to ask, “How can I help?”
There are hundreds of reputable aid organizations. Often they specialize in the kinds of care and support they give. They may chiefly support feeding and health programs or they may build homes or focus on clean-up after disasters. When major disasters affect an area, the people need a variety of help from short-term to long.
Finding ways to give to help specific areas in need can be both challenging and dangerous. There are those who prey on such situations, setting up bogus websites and placing deceptive ads on television. There are levels of deception from outright lies and programs that don’t exist, to those that manipulate and misrepresent true needs for their own gain.
It pays to be wise, careful and informed.
What do you need to know before giving to an organization? You need to find information that shows the percentage of income spent on actual aid to those in need. A top-rated organization will spend 75% or more on actual aid, with 25% or less spent on overhead. Often the costs of soliciting the donations eat up a large percentage of the giving.
You also need to know that the organization does not hold an excessive amount of their funds in reserve. An aid organization is in the business of giving, not saving. The books of the organization must be open to the public.
The best way to make a giving decision is to research the organizations in question through professional “watchdog” groups. There are many of them. They take the time to do first-hand visits of overseas sites and have accountants inspect records and documents of the groups.
A reputable non-profit will have open records of their experiences in giving. You’ll find pictures, stories of those helped and good references and ratings done by outside investigators. The organization will have a mission statement clearly stating their goals and objectives. Evaluations will outline their strengths and accomplishments.
Tips for Choosing a Non-profit
Take the time to think about your life values, beliefs, preferences and priorities. What matters to you? What captures your heart? Often suffering children tug at heartstrings, and sponsorship programs for their care, feeding and education are numerous. You may believe that community development is at the heart of social change. In that case you may gravitate toward clean water programs, leadership training and the like.
Verify the legitimacy of the organization. Ask questions and do the necessary research to know exactly what the organization does and what they represent. See the listings of watchdog agencies below.
Trust your instincts. If organizations offer too much, promise too much or use questionable, hyper-emotional solicitations, you should move on to another, better
Every responsible adult wants to help alleviate pain and suffering, so rampant in our world. But the truth is: we can’t fix every problem or help all in need. It’s important that we take stock of our own resources, our priorities in giving and then make informed decisions on ways to help.
Here is a listing of organizations which rate non-profits for their authenticity, effectiveness and specific strengths and weaknesses.