The devastation in Oklahoma yesterday has us all stunned and praying for those affected. Here in Alaska, the ice is breaking on our rural rivers and home are flooding in villages behind ice dams.
As we’ve come to expect, first responders are in place and helping people as quickly as possible. And, there is a plethora of requests for aid and ways to give aid. Thankfully most are valid but we’ve also come to expect the scammers in situations such as this. So, I’m reviving parts of posts I wrote more than a year ago about making smart giving choices.
The most important advice is to give to familiar nonprofits. The American Red Cross and Salvation Army already have Oklahoma disaster funds in place. In fact, their people are already in place giving the aid we’ve all come to expect.
Text REDCROSS to 90999 to give $10 to American Red Cross Disaster Relief, donate online, or donate by phone at 1-800-RED CROSS.Donate online or text STORM to 80888 to contribute $10 to the Salvation Army’s relief efforts or make a donation by phone at 1-800-SAL-ARMY.
I’m sure you agree it’s important to know where your hard-earned dollars are going. It’s not that time consuming to make sure the vast majority of your check will go to direct services. Merriam Webster defines these as “active service on cases and work with patients as distinguished from staff functions.”
While I understand completely the need for administrative costs, it’s important to understand the details behind those numbers and give your dollars where they’ll make the most impact. Guidestar and Charity Navigator both offer services that help you learn about nonprofits. United Way of America is another organization that thoroughly screens their partners before providing them funds.
If you have the time, an organization’s IRS Form 990 is a great source of information. Pay close attention to the percentages of funds that go to “program services” as compared to administrative costs. Program services funds are actually getting to those the organization helps while administrative costs are generally overhead. Personally, organizations I like to support keep their overhead to no more than 10% of expenses.
Whatever you decide to do, please give generously to those in need, hug those you care about and be grateful for what you have.