We’re watching the news, following the updates on Twitter, and staying in close contact with friends and family members as we march through peak hurricane season. In the wake of Harvey and Irma, we all desperately want to help those who have been and will continue to be impacted. While we might reach for what’s in our cupboards and closets, the donation of goods isn’t the most effective way to help. In fact, it actually hinders recovery efforts. Here’s why the best thing to donate in the wake of natural disasters is cash.
Dollars go further
When we go to the grocery store or shops, we pay retail price. When a food bank or another nonprofit buys goods to help people, they pay wholesale or bulk prices that are lower than retail prices. This means when you donate money directly to these organizations, they can make every dollar go further to help more people.
Most goods will be discarded
Here is a sad fact: Donating goods is more beneficial for the giver than the receiver after the natural disaster. We feel like we’ve helped when we give old blankets or coats, but truthfully, we’re hindering the recovery efforts when we donate goods. The Center for International Disaster Information, a leading authority on recovery efforts, says unsolicited goods are rarely needed in the early stages of response. These unwanted donations compete with much-needed efforts when it comes to people power, transportation services, and storage space. So save the waste and send cash instead.
Text donations are too slow
While it is immensely helpful that we can send a quick and easy text to give money after a disaster, the nonprofits and relief agencies we are funding receive the donations much faster if we go right to their websites to make a donation there.
Stick with the establishment
If you are looking for a place to make a donation, it’s best in these situations to go with established organizations. They have the networks, connections, and expertise to make the most of the donations. Religious organizations as well as national and local nonprofits that are registered as 501(c)3 nonprofit organizations are the best stewards for your money. They also allow you to deduct the donation on your taxes, making it possible for you to be even more generous. If you want to research nonprofits before making your gift, local United Way and local Community Foundation chapters have a wealth of information. In the case of Harvey, look to Houston’s chapters. (See also: The 5 Charitable Donations That Do the Most Good)
Other donation options
There are two other ways to give that don’t involve cash or material items, but are also extremely necessary in the wake of a hurricane or other natural disaster: shelter and skills.
Give your space
Do you have a spare bedroom or couch? Can your business location, community center, or religious organization provide space to shelter people? Can you take in a foster animal or adopt an animal to give them a forever home? The giving of your space is something that many people (and animals) need and appreciate more than we could ever imagine. Mattress Mack in Houston has become a national celebrity for opening up his mattress showroom as a shelter.
Airbnb is now waiving service fees and the requirement that hosts charge at least $10 per night; free accommodations are now permitted in selected areas that have been affected by natural disasters.
Give your expertise
Are you a doctor, veterinarian, social worker, carpenter, electrician, plumber, or attorney? Do you have extensive knowledge of insurance policies? Do you have strong government experience that you could leverage to help people? These kinds of skills and areas of expertise are often in demand in areas affected by natural disasters. Again, working through local government or relief agencies that are on the ground is the most effective way to give your knowledge and experience to those who need it.
The desire to give is necessary and appreciated. Let’s help those in the need the best way that we can. Together, we can make a difference.