Residents of the Bahamas and along the U.S. East Coast are just beginning to tally the death and destruction Hurricane Dorian has left in its wake.
As of mid-day Thursday, authorities attributed 20 deaths in the Bahamas and four across the southeast to the storm, a figure expected to rise. One insurance consulting firm estimates total property losses in the Bahamas, not including infrastructure and autos, could reach $7 billion.
Residents of Terrebonne and Lafourche, Louisiana, know a lot about the pain and suffering hurricanes cause. And we know recovery will take months and years, long after the catastrophe has lost the attention of people around the country and world who are focused now on the immediate impact.
Many local residents will respond by donating money or goods to help Dorian’s survivors recover. As relief efforts begin, it’s important to make sure your contribution does the most good for the people who need it most.
CharityWatch, a reputable and independent watchdog for more than 25 years, offers a list of trustworthy charities you can consider at charitywatch.org. You’ll recognize many of the groups, which include the American Red Cross, Catholic Relief Services, Samaritan’s Purse, Save the Children, the United Methodist Committee on Relief and UNICEF.
All of the charities meet the group’s basic criteria of spending at least 75% of their budgets on services to the needy.
"As with any charitable contribution, Americans wanting to help with disaster relief efforts should only give to legitimate charities with an established track record of helping people in need," CharityWatch says.
Among other tips:
• Be on guard for a surge of solicitations related to any highly publicized crisis. There will be fraudulent charity solicitations, some involving websites and email links trying to steal your credit card information for identity theft or insert malware on your computer.
• Do not respond to, or click on any attachments, links or pictures included in, emails or text messages from unknown senders.
• Social media will include many fake victims. Do not donate to unknown people purporting to need aid that post on Facebook, GoFundMe and other social sites. These may be fraudsters, and even if they are legitimate victims, they may receive an unfairly large amount of aid.
• Scammers may try to use copy-cat names similar to those of well-known charities. Avoid confusion by verifying that the charity is legitimate before you donate. Reputable charities will not pressure you to give immediately.
"The best way to help is by sending a check or donating securely by credit card," CharityWatch says. "Such cash donations enable charities to buy the most needed types of food, medicine, clothing, shelter materials, and other supplies. By buying relief products locally or regionally, charities can reduce shipping costs and more rapidly deliver assistance. Before sending any goods, first contact the charity to find out if they are appropriate and if it will be cost effective to distribute them."
If you plan to donate, use CharityWatch as a clearinghouse to ensure it benefits Hurricane Dorian’s survivors they way you intend.