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After spending several years in social services, Nicole has finally followed her lifelong dream of being a full-time writer. In addition to her work for The Hudsucker, Nicole is also a staff writer for Womanista. An avid comic book fan, BBQ aficionado, professional makeup artist and first-time mom, Nicole can be found exploring Kansas City rich history when she's not blogging about suburban life at Suburban Flamingo.

Kindness in Crisis: Charitable Giving in Times of Disaster

On Saturday April 25th, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake shook Nepal. The earthquake, centered just northwest of the Nepalese capital Kathmandu, resulted in avalanches on Mt. Everest, the destruction of entire villages, widespread destruction, loss of numerous historical structures, and the loss of more than 2,500 lives. The death toll includes people from all walks of life, including Google’s Dan Fredinburg, and is expected to rise as high magnitude aftershocks continue to hamper rescue and recovery efforts.

Image Credit: Thomas Nybo for the New York Times

Image Credit: Thomas Nybo/New York Times

Watching from half a world away, it is heartbreaking and difficult to simply sit by as people struggle. It is natural of us to want to do something to help. Nepal in particular is a developing nation more strapped for resources than some its neighbors are. However, before you open up your wallet, text a code to donate some funds, or run to catch a flight to hit the ground and dig through rubble, it is important to take a look at not just how you want to help, but through what method.

First, it is important to step back and determine what the best way to help is. In any disaster, many people want to travel to the disaster site and assist with rescue, recovery, or reconstruction. The problem with that is that many people who respond to such disasters are often not prepared (for either the situation on ground or the general area they are reporting to). More than that, however, is that an influx of well-meaning people wanting to help puts strain on already lean resources. In many disasters, clean, safe water as well as food and shelter are in short supply for the victims. Adding in outsiders only makes the shortages worse. Unless you are a disaster response trained professional engaged with a relief or response organization it is best that you assist in more passive ways.

Once you have decided that you will help from home you have to decide how. It is a sad fact that for all of the human kindness that emerges in a tragedy, there are people who are there to profit off said goodness at the expense of those suffering. Many scams or questionable groups pop up during times of need to solicit donations they claim will help. In addition, even if you give to a charity you know your donation may not be used to assist in the way you want. So how do you help if going in person isn’t appropriate and there are scammers out there? Charity Navigator, a non-profit organization that evaluates charities and rates them to help donors find and support worthy charities, has some helpful tips on how to give in times of crisis. They even have a whole page devoted to tips and information of how to give during a crisis, but here are the top tips to keep in mind as you watch the tragedy play out on the news.

Give to an established charity:

Many scam charities will pop up overnight in the face of a disaster, but beyond that there are well-known charities that may not be as experienced in dealing with disasters in all areas of the world. If you’re going to give money to a charity you want to make sure that you give to an established charity that has infrastructure and experience.

Do not send supplies:

Yes, in a disaster there is a supply shortage. They are also short on the ability to receive, organize, and distribute supplies that are just sent there, not to mention the challenges of even getting to the impacted area. Leave the supplies to the organizations that you are donating to.

Donate at the charity of your choice’s authorized website:

Anyone can make a web ad or send an email that looks like it is coming from, say, the Red Cross. Resist the urge to simply click and go to the official website instead.

Don’t forget about the disaster when it falls out of the news:

This isn’t a tip that Charity Navigator gives, but it is important just the same. The news life cycle is short, but the recovery cycle from a disaster is long and people will need help and support long after the headlines fade away. Continue to support your charity even after it’s no longer breaking news.

It is going to be a long road for the people impacted by the earthquake in Nepal. I hope that these tips will allow you to best help the victims in the coming days, weeks, and months.

For more information on charitable giving and evaluating charities, please visit Charity Navigator. For more information on the Nepalese earthquake and relief efforts, please visit the Red Cross.

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