In times like these, it’s easy to want to help and not know how. The news is packed with stories of economic injustice, much of it urgent. A thousand children need legal representation today. Schools in Puerto Rico are closing down. Michigan’s donated water has run out. It’s something different every day, and for most of us, the only help we can offer is to open our wallets.
The urgency makes it difficult to gauge the effectiveness and trustworthiness of charity campaigns. GoFundMes and the like set up by private individuals feel good to support, as they represent the kind of grassroots activism we all admire. But even well-meaning organizers may fall short of their promised activities, and many don’t have good intentions.
That’s why it’s important to take the time to investigate a charitable campaign before giving. A quick search may turn its name up on a list of common scams.
For a more concrete review, check with Give.org and Charity Navigator, which hold charity organizations responsible for transparency and fiscal responsibility. New organizations that pop up immediately following a disaster are difficult to verify.
Crowdfunding campaigns, while often among the first to pop up in response to an emergency, are difficult or impossible to vet. If you do decide to donate to one of these, follow up by monitoring the campaign’s activity and discussions. If anything seems off-base, quick reports to the hosting site may keep the money from disappearing.
If you do support small grassroots campaigns, look for a few earmarks of good planning. Specific uses for donations and how they are intended to help is a good starting point. Avoid vague and broad promises. Organizers who set up transparency from the beginning, with real names and contact information available, are far more credible.
We all want to help, and monetary donations are desperately vital. Lawyers, marches, soup kitchens, and clean water all cost money. But take the time to ensure that your money will go where you intend it to.