We see the greatest parts of community following a disaster. Differences are put aside and everyone works together for the greater good. It's the most beautiful side effect of a disaster. I absolutely love the unconditional acceptance and selfless actions of others we see; I wish we could bottle this attitude and keep it around forever.
During this time, people across the country want to help. Please do, and make sure you and all your friends know how to make sure your donation makes the greatest impact!
*HERE'S THE SKINNY: DONATE MONEY, DON'T DONATE CLOTHES. REASONS BELOW!*
Here are Momma Bear's top tips for donating after an emergency:
1. DONATE MONEY
It's not impersonal and it's not a cop-out. Donating money is the absolute best way for 99.9% of Americans to help after Harvey. That $20 you send to the charity of your choice will combine with everyone else's donations to make a HUGE difference. Your money can turn into a hot meal, a safe place to sleep, medical care, *NEW* clothing and shoes, baby supplies - literally WHATEVER is needed.
Some employers will also match your donation. Check to see if you can do this to easily double your impact!
2. KNOW who you're donating to
Unfortunately, people do take advantage of disaster situations and you need to make sure your money goes to the right place. The American Red Cross is always one of the first charities people think to donate to following an emergency. Momma Bear's personal favorite is Direct Relief International. There are lots of stellar organizations out there doing incredible work.
If you want to donate to an organization, do some research on it! A super quick search on Charity Navigator will let you know if it's a reputable organization (Direct Relief has a 100/100 score on Charity Navigator... just sayin!).
Be wary of Go Fund Mes and requests to send money to individuals. Some of them are legitimate and will use your donation appropriately. However, it's just as easy for someone to pretend to be something they're not and steal your money.
3. DO NOT donate clothes
In the VERY immediate aftermath, there may be SOME need for clothes, but these requests are quickly filled, oftentimes by close family and friends. The problem isn't that you want to donate clothes. The problem is when clothes are donated from you, and your neighbor, and your grandparents, and their church friends, and their extended family, and all of the previously mentioned people's co-workers... The result is quite literally a logistical nightmare. People mail clothes to random locations in impacted areas, clogging up extremely limited storage space (remember that many of the buildings in these locations are not currently usable). Also, people will donate just about anything - people send winter coats during the summer, high heeled shoes, chandeliers, (yes, seriously). We see this problem over and over again after disasters (Sandy, Newton, Joplin, Haiti, Japan, Indian Ocean Tsunami, Hurricane Mitch... the list literally goes on and on). People aren't just telling you not to donate your clothes because they're jerks. They're doing it because they want to help! Still don't believe me? What about these sources:
Still want to donate your clothes? Have a garage sale, promoting that all proceeds will go to Harvey relief . Or, donate to your local Goodwill or Salvation Army. They'd love to take your winter coats and high heels and chandeliers!
4. If you want to donate items, ONLY donate items that are specifically requested
There are instances where a specific item is needed. I've seen a number of these requests coming from Hurricane Harvey. If you're getting a request for specific items (such as cat and dog food from the local pet shelter), go for it! One hundred percent donate items that are requested. If I'm in need of a toothbrush, and I ask you for a toothbrush, I'd love it if you give me a toothbrush! If I can find my own toothbrush, but you still give me a toothbrush (or worse, you mail me 100 toothbrushes), the impact is going to the wrong place.
What are some of your favorite ways to donate after a disaster? Any tips I missed?
Stay safe out there, and go do good.