The best way to help whenever a disaster strikes at home or abroad is to donate money to reputable, established charities.
Clean-up and rebuilding takes months of effort, and sometimes years. Every dollar you donate to well-established aid organizations will go toward relief efforts. Experts say whatever you do, don’t donate anything but money.
Under no circumstances should you mail care packages, toys, food, or clothes.
Donating goods often become a burden. A system is required to accept, manage, sort, warehouse and distribute supplies that often aren’t things people need. The only exception is when a credible organization requests specific supplies and is already set up to receive them.
That’s why cash is preferred…always useful, no matter the situation or need.
Under no circumstances should you travel to an affected area to “help”.
Another problem occurs when well-meaning individuals head to a disaster area to assist in recovery. However, disaster areas request that individuals do not arrive self-deploy and arrive alone, rather only through an established relief organization. Volunteers who self-deploy often find they lack resources and are unable to help, and many end up requiring rescue themselves, placing further burden on an already ravaged area.
Above all, beware of charity frauds that claim to be raising money in any disaster. Before you donate your hard earned money to a scammer, read FBI Tips on Avoiding Charity Fraud or check that the agency is top-rated by Charity Navigator, an independent charity rating group. Especially be aware of organizations with similar sounding names to well-established, highly rated ones. If you have any doubt, you can donate to a charity directly from a link on Charity Navigator.
Following is our suggested list of organizations who regularly respond in disaster and relief situations, are best equipped to assist those in need, and highly rated by Charity Navigator (4 stars) for accountability and transparency:
Hurricane Florence relief
In the aftermath of Florence, North and South Carolina officials are encouraging people to donate if they can. Here are some local funds to help those in the affected areas:
Foundation For The Carolinas has created a hurricane response fund to funnel money to nonprofits in North and South Carolina.
The North Carolina Disaster Relief Fund is a state government fund accepting money and volunteers. You can donate online or text Florence to 20222.
Owners of the Amazon Echo smart speaker can say, “Alexa, donate to Hurricane Florence disaster relief,” which will send money to the Red Cross.
Hearts With Hands has a specific list of needed in-kind goods on its website, such as washcloths, travel-size toiletries and razors.
World Central Kitchen uses a food truck to deliver food to several counties in North Carolina, working with local chef Keith Rhodes and is accepting monetary donations.
If you wish to volunteer your time, do not head to any of the affected areas on your own. The state of North Carolina has set up an online form to enlist volunteers. South Carolina can sign up through a site maintained by the United Way Association of South Carolina.
Puerto Rico Disaster Relief
Relief organizations listed below working in Puerto Rico include Direct Relief, Global Giving, ICNA Relief USA, and Water Mission.
Charity Navigator maintains a list of agencies providing Relief for Puerto Rico and Areas Impacted by Hurricane Maria.
Emergency Service Relief Organizations
Aga Khan Foundation is committed to breaking the cycle of poverty. While inspired by the values of Islam – particularly consultation, solidarity with those less fortunate, self-reliance and human dignity – the Foundation is not a religious organization and represents all religions and persuasions. They are driven by the belief that when all people – regardless of faith, origin or gender – live and work side by side to improve their communities, the fabric of society is stronger.
American Jewish World Service is dedicated solely to ending poverty and promoting human rights in the developing world. Through philanthropy and advocacy, they’ve addressed some of the gravest global problems of our time—genocide, AIDS, violence against women and girls, hatred of LGBT people, and the horrific consequences of natural and human-made disasters.
AmeriCares is a global health and emergency response organization. They can quickly dispatch local emergency response teams from their offices worldwide with shipments of medical aid and relief supplies for those affected.
Baitulmaal works to alleviate poverty, restore hope and dignity through emergency relief and long-term sustainable development in health, education, and community empowerment.
Catholic Relief Services maintains field offices worldwide to provide emergency relief materials such as tarpaulins/shelter kits, water, sanitation and hygiene material.
Global Giving is the first and largest global crowdfunding community that connects vetted nonprofits, donors, and companies in nearly every country around the world. They help local nonprofits access the funding, tools, training, and support they need to become more effective.
Helping Hand for Relief And Development is a global humanitarian relief and development organization responding to human sufferings in emergency and disaster situations around the world regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, class, location, religion, color, cultural diversity and social background, with a special focus in countries where the majority of the population lives below the poverty line. In addition to emergency relief efforts in natural or man-made disasters, they also work on long term relief and development programs.
ICNA Relief USA seeks to alleviate human suffering by providing caring and compassionate service to victims of adversities and survivors of disasters. ICNA Relief USA strives to build healthy communities, strengthen families and create opportunities for those in despair while maintaining dignity and advocating for basic human needs.
International Rescue Committee (IRC) responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. IRC is governed by a volunteer, unpaid board of directors. IRC teams provide health care, infrastructure, learning and economic support to people in more than 40 countries, with special programs designed for women and children. They resettle thousands of refugees each year in 26 U.S. cities.
Water Mission is a nonprofit Christian organization that designs, builds and implements safe water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) solutions for people in developing countries and disaster areas, using innovative technology and engineering expertise.
World Relief (as originated within the National Association of Evangelicals) focuses on disaster response, health and child development, refugee and immigration services, economic development and peacebuilding, working holistically with the local church to stand for the sick, the widowed, the orphaned, the alienated, the displaced, the devastated, the marginalized and the disenfranchised.
Zakat Foundation of America is an international charity organization that helps generous and caring people reach out to those in need. Their goal is to address immediate needs and ensure the self-reliance of the poorest people around the world. They believe that those whom God has granted wealth need to cleanse that wealth through charity, and those whom God has tried with loss are accorded a rightful share from the resources of the affluent.
Crisis Services for Children and Families
Action Against Hunger USA is a global organization that takes decisive action against the causes and effects of hunger, saving the lives of malnourished children and ensuring everyone access to clean water, food, training, and healthcare.
Crisis Aid International concentrates efforts in East Africa and the United States serving children and families who are in crisis situations. Whether it be famine, disease, natural disaster, or sex trafficking, Crisis Aid is there to assist in sustaining life, bring encouragement to those suffering and collaborate with other relief organizations in bringing necessary foods, materials and medicines to people in times of crisis, particularly where life and death situations exist.
First Book creates equal access to quality education affordable – everything from brand new, high-quality books and educational resources, to sports equipment, winter coats, snacks, and more – for its member network of more than 375,000 educators who exclusively serve kids in need. It is the largest and fastest-growing network of educators in the United States exclusively serving kids in need.
Focus Humanitarian Assistance (FOCUS) is an International crisis response and disaster risk management agency, providing relief and assistance following natural disasters, as well as resettlement programs for displaced families and extended relief and recovery support for communities living in vulnerable environments.
Hispanic Federation works with over 100 Latino health and human services agencies to promote the social, political and economic well-being of the Latino community in the areas of education, health, immigration, civic engagement, economic empowerment, the environment and disaster relief. With offices in New York, Washington D.C., Connecticut and Florida, and a nonprofit footprint throughout the East Coast, HF uplifts millions of Hispanic children, youth and families locally and nationally.
International Relief Teams (IRT) provides health services and humanitarian assistance to victims of disaster, neglect, and profound poverty worldwide. During disasters, IRT chooses appropriate responses to leverage donor resources to their highest effectiveness, including deploying medical and reconstruction teams, providing relief supplies, or financing the restoration of livelihoods and infrastructure.
Medical Care Relief Organizations
Direct Relief is a nonprofit that specializes in providing international medical assistance. It coordinates with local partners to focus relief efforts where the need is greatest.
Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres) helps people worldwide where the need is greatest, delivering emergency medical aid to people affected by conflict, epidemics, disasters or exclusion from health care. The organization was started by French doctors and its first office was in Paris, but there are now branch offices around the world.
Pathfinder International maintains the right of women and families to have access to contraception and quality reproductive health care in remote locations, under the most difficult conditions, serving the most vulnerable people. They collaborate with governments, NGOs, and community- and faith-based organizations to ensure safe childbirth, healthy families, HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, reproductive health, and family planning programs.