Some online resources to help you identify a charity worthy of your support.
When disaster strikes, it often reveals the very best in people: Their fortitude, resilience and ability to overcome is inspiring. So is the desire in many others to help those impacted. So it is once again in South Texas, as volunteers are scrambling in boats of all types to rescue stranded Houstonians and others. Godspeed to them.
For others unable to physically contribute, there is often a strong desire to support a charity. This, too, is a tremendously commendable exercise, but any time money is involved, you can be sure charlatans come with the territory. In that vein, here is a brief roundup of resources we came across today that can help ensure the financial aid you intend to support Harvey victims actually gets there.
The Federal Trade Commission offers tips on avoiding scams here. A key, according to the FTC, is to avoid organizations that "spring up too suddenly in response to current events and natural disasters. Even if they are legitimate, they probably don't have the infrastructure to get the donations to the affected area or people." Seems sensible to us. The Better Business Bureau also cautions would-be donors about crowdfunding posts seeking disaster aid. They warn that "some crowdfunding sites do very little vetting of individuals who decide to post for assistance after a disaster, and it is often difficult for donors to verify the trustworthiness of crowdfunding requests for support." The BBB says crowdfunding is probably best used to give money to people you personally know-not necessarily for general charitable purposes.
In terms of targeting a charity able to help Houstonians, there are resources here, too. The Better Business Bureau vets charities according to 20 criteria (which you can read about here) and published a press release this morning containing a list of organizations offering assistance in South Texas that met their criteria. Here is that press release. Furthermore, CharityNavigator.org ranks and rates charities based mostly on transparency, financial health and accountability. You can learn more about their ratings here. And they, too, have a list of rated charities helping in South Texas, which you can view here. This article from The Wall Street Journal, published a couple of years ago, provides even more resources, should you need them.
Finally, some general advice about entering financial data online: Don't click on links in emails sent to you requesting donations and financial information. Fisher Investments' Information Security folks frequently warn that most email scams start from unsolicited communication that requests some kind of action from you. They may look very real, too! It's better to go to the website yourself by googling or typing the web address of the charity into the address bar of your browser.
Just remember: While disasters motivate 99.9995% of humans to do good and help, there is a tiny segment of the population that sees it as a different kind of opportunity. That shouldn't forestall you from offering financial help to those imperiled, of course. Just maybe take a couple minutes to make sure you're dealing with a sound charity capable of helping out first.
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*The content contained in this article represents only the opinions and viewpoints of the Fisher Investments editorial staff.