Friday, March 5, 2010

Get Help When Trying to Help

First Aid -- Responding To EmergenciesI wanted to write a post like this after the recent earthquakes that have devastated the world and inspiring some of us to donate funds to help.  However, I am going to let Luke Erickson from the Idaho Two Cents Newsletter provide today's article.

This is a guest post from the UI Extension by Luke Erickson

Even in this time of economic recession many have donated their time, skills and hard earned cash in the name of Haiti relief. Unfortunately, something else less reputable surfaced in the midst of these somewhat recent events, Haiti relief scams.

History has shown that any time a lot of money changes hands, scammers will crawl out of the woodwork to try to get their sticky fingers on some of it. Whether it’s in the form of individual door to door solicitors, bogus websites, crooks posing as representatives of legitimate charity organizations, or even legitimate charity organizations that have lost their way, scams are all too prevalent.

When considering charity, my advice is not to withhold your donations out of fear or confusion, but to do everything you can to make sure your donated dollars go to the purpose you intend. A great way to check up on a charitable organization is to go to a third party website that rates a charity according to their legitimacy and efficiency at using donated dollars for their intended causes. The most widely known and used include charity,, and

Eton American Red Cross Emergency Crank RadioEach of these websites uses a different methodology for rating a charitable organization, so it’s not a bad idea to use more than one website to help you get an accurate picture of a charity that could potentially receive some of your donated dollars.

“But why go to all the trouble?” you may be asking yourself. Consider the example of a recent report by on a large national charity called Feed the Children. According to their report Feed the Children is America’s 7th largest charity based on its private support of close to $1 billion annually. The report states that Feed the Children spends approximately 64% of its cash budget on fundraising, 14% goes toward other miscellaneous costs, and a mere 22% is actually used on program services. Think that’s bad? It gets worse. 83% of non-cash, donated items were categorized as medical supplies, another 7% as books and the remaining 10% as assorted necessities. So, according to the report, Feed the Children does very little to actually feed the children.

A quick visit to their website splashes your computer screen with pictures of sad, dirty Haitian children in need of help. Too bad that only a miniscule percentage of your donation through this “charity” will actually reach those Haitian children. The rest apparently goes to perpetuate a misguided and unorganized billion dollar organization.

American Red Cross Emergency Preparedness with First Aid KitAlso consider that according to an FBI report, it took less than 24 hours for the first fraudulent emails solicitations sent in the name of Haiti relief, to be identified. Also, according to an ABC news report, 64 new Haiti relief websites appeared within 36 hours of the quake. When donating to emergency relief efforts it’s usually best to go with a long established organization with a proven track record of efficient use of donated dollars. Those charities that pop up immediately after catastrophes should be treated with skepticism.

Also be aware of identity theft as a major problem surrounding charitable donations. Particularly when answering telephone, email or door - to- door solicitations for donations to a charitable cause your number one question should not be, “How will this person or organization use my donated money?” but rather,“Can I trust this person or organization with my information?” Whether it’s your social security number, credit card number, other banking info, or even your name, address and phone number, your first priority is making sure the person on the other end is legitimate and trustworthy.

Sadly, we will never know how much money was donated in the name of Haiti Relief that never actually reached the people of Haiti. The good news is that there are still many legitimate organizations with a proven track record of delivering help in times of crises. Do your best now and in the future to seek these organizations out so that your good intentions are followed by good results.

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