Thinking of Donating Money to Victims of Irene? Here are some Recommended Charities

Posted by Julie Reynolds

Disasters bring out the best in most of us.  In fact, American charities have already raised more than $246 million for Japan’s earthquake relief efforts, according to Charity Navigator. They’ve raised more than $6.5 billion for Hurricane Katrina victims.  But disasters can also bring out predators.  If you’re thinking of contributing money to an agency or organization to help victims of Hurricane Irene, look before you donate.

Fake charities frequently pop up after a major disaster, with criminals requesting donations for victims while actually pocketing the money themselves.

Some charities are better than others, or at least better at spending the money they’re given.  According to the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office, “of every dollar that a professional solicitor raised for a charity in 2009, only 43 cents went to the charity.”

With more than 1.9 million nonprofits in the U.S. how will you know that the charity of your choice is a legitimate one and that your money will be put to good use rather than spent on lavish perks or wasteful marketing?

Do some research, says the American Institute of Philanthropy (AIP), a charity watchdog that evaluates nonprofit organizations to determine their effectiveness and how they spend your money.

AIP rates more than 500 charities three times each year in its Charity Rating Guide, published online at   The group grades nonprofits on a wide range of fiscal and management criteria and gives a top rating (generally a B+ to A+ grade) to groups that spend 75% or more on programs and spend less than $25 per $100 gained in public support.

Charity Navigator is the nation’s most-used evaluator of nonprofits.  The organization analyzes the financial health of more than 5,500 of America’s largest charities, reviewing each organization’s day-to-day function as well as its position for sustainability in the future.  Learn more at

You can also gauge the efficiency of a nonprofit by reading its annual report, audited financial statement, and IRS Form 990, which must be filed each year by federally tax-exempt organizations.  Guidestar has more than 5 million Forms 990 posted online in PDF.  These provide information on top executives, their pay and benefits, key vendor relationships, and other information that sheds light on the charity.  There is no charge to view the forms, but registration on the site is required:

According to the Associated Press, 40 fatalities from Hurricane Irene and its aftermath have been confirmed.  New England was especially hit hard with flooding and ongoing power outages.  In Vermont more than 250 roads are closed, making repair and relief efforts challenging.  More than 8,500 people were relocated to emergency Red Cross shelters along the east coast. According to Business Week, the storm caused an estimated $2.6 billion in damage.

The victims of this storm need help.  Among Charity Navigator’s top picks for contributing to post-Irene relief efforts are the American Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals,  and the Humane Society of the United States.  AIP rates the Salvation Army Eastern Territory with an A.

The FBI offers these warnings to avoid charity scams:  Do not respond to unsolicited email requests or click on links within them.  Make contributions directly to organizations, not to individuals who say they represent them.  Never provide your personal or financial information to anyone soliciting contributions.

Other tips:  Don’t feel pressured to make a donation. Request that telephone solicitors mail information to you. If a tax deduction is important to you, make sure the organization has tax-exempt status, such as 501(c)(3) exemption.  Regularly check the charities you want to support.  In June 2010, the IRS revoked exemption from 275,000 nonprofits that failed to file an annual tax return.  If you receive a suspicious charity solicitation, report it to your state attorney general’s office.

Related posts:

  1. Tornado Victims in Irene’s Path Must Weather Storm
  2. Blood Donations Urged Before Irene Arrives
  3. Hurricane Irene And The Social Mediasphere: How We Used Facebook and Twitter Throughout The Storm

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Posted by Julie Reynolds on Aug 31 2011. Filed under Lifestyle, Top Stories. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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