Charitable giving in times of crisis

The world often is affected by crises—often natural disasters such as earthquakes, tornadoes and hurricanes. After these crises occur, many people immediately take action to help those in need.

But it is important to be sure charitable giving is done responsibly so you can efficiently provide as much help as possible.

Charity Navigator's Web site,, offers some tips for giving during times of crisis:

  • Be sure you give to an established charity. Unscrupulous charities will take advantage of your generosity, so a charity should have a proven record of success with handling the type of disaster that occurred. New organizations created for that specific disaster may mean well but often don't know how to efficiently maximize your donation; if you feel the need to donate to such an organization, be sure it is a registered public charity with 501(c)(3) status.
  • Designate your donation. Although many charities encourage donors not to designate their investments and to trust the charity to do so, you still may be concerned about whether your donation will go to help the immediate crisis or be saved for a future crisis. If so, you can designate your gift to ensure it will be used as you intended. When donating online, there often is a check box feature so you can designate your donation; if mailing a check, write a note in the memo section of the check.
  • Avoid telemarketers. Never give your credit card information to fundraisers who pressure you to make a contribution over the telephone. Instead, ask the fundraiser to send you more information about the charity. Then, once you have researched the charity and feel comfortable, send the organization a check through the mail or donate through its website.
  • Research and follow up. You can use Charity Navigator's free financial evaluations to find financially healthy charities to support. You also can follow up with the charity in a few months to find out how it used your donation and whether the organization needs additional support.
  • Donate online. Giving online is a fast, easy way to donate and allows a charity immediate access to much-needed funds.

This Web exclusive information is a supplement to A million ways to give .