How You Can Help When Disaster Strikes

How You Can Help When Disaster Strikes

When a natural disaster strikes that endangers lives, most people want to know the best way they can help. Whether it be monetary donations, supplies or volunteering their time, there are many options available. Two common stumbling blocks seem to be where to start and how to make sure you’re donating to a reputable cause and not a fake charity. Here’s how to help out in a crisis and how to decide what will have a lasting impact.

Making a Monetary Donation

For many people, the easiest way to help is to donate money. And to be blunt, cash is typically what’s needed most — especially right after a catastrophic event. What you need to know before you dole out your money, however, is where to donate to ensure your funds are appropriately used.

Your best bet is to select established non-profits like Convoy of Hope or Samaritan’s Purse. Both organizations respond to disasters of all kinds all around the globe and have a relatively intact reputation for responsible fundraising.

When you select organizations like these, you are giving to groups who have experience dealing with disasters of all types. They know how to get help to the people who need it most. Experience makes a difference, especially when it comes to dealing with international disasters.

Donating Time

Instead of opening up your pocketbook, maybe you want to physically go and help with relief efforts. This is a great way to assist others if you have the strength, ability, and resources to do so.

These organizations facilitate hands-on help:

  • International Red Cross — A global humanitarian network, the IRC is the first on the scene in the event of many emergencies. Volunteers help distribute water, cooking kits and shelter supplies to those needing it the most.
  • All Hands and Hearts — National and international disaster relief non-profit. This charity pairs up volunteers with hard-hit areas that need rebuilding. This includes homes, schools and health centers.
  • AmeriCares — Ready, respond and recover. Work and volunteer with government officials to respond to areas hit hard by disaster. AmeriCares focuses on front line medical and trauma care. If you have a background in the medical field, that’s a plus.

Your help with aiding in rebuilding, passing out food or assisting with displaced individuals with temporary housing makes a huge impact. Of course, monetary donations to any of these organizations will be greatly appreciated as well.

Helping Pets in Distress

Let’s not forget our little furry friends when a circle of turmoil hits unexpectedly. Fires, hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes can leave many pets and animals homeless and in trouble. This is another area where you may be able to provide aid.

During a crisis, organizations like the ASPCA or the Global Alliance for Animals and People help to transport animals out of danger and also facilitate the adoption process, where necessary and/or possible. You can help with a monetary donation, which allows organization to pay for shelter, food, and vet costs, or you can help in person.

The only catch? Not every organization accepts every person who applies for in-person volunteer work. Some positions demand training or have specific stipulations, such as background checks and minimum commitments, that you’ll need to meet first.

How to Spot a Scam

Now, let’s talk about the elephant in the charity ball room…


When giving time or money, it’s important to be on the lookout for scams. Thieves are prevalent everywhere, even targeting donors who want to help others. Furthermore, not every charity is as reputable or responsible as the next. So what can you do?

  • Avoid giving credit card info when an organization contacts you via phone. Verify their legitimacy and info through the IRS Tax Exemption Organization Search before contributing.
  • Use a program like Guidestar to properly identify non-profits and charities.
  • Watch for phishing emails. They may look very much like an email from an actual charity, but when clicked on, send you to a fake url to phish for information. Always verify their identity first.
  • Be leery of third-party solicitors and payment collectors. Always give directly to the organization if you can.
  • If someone comes door-to-door, don’t be afraid to ask to see their ID or even call the organization to confirm an ongoing campaign. Real fundraisers will be happy to prove their legitimacy.

Wanting to help out in a time of need is a part of what makes us human. The good news is there are so many amazing opportunities to make a real difference out there. But not everyone who calls or solicits online is who they claim to be.

When you give, use caution and care. Take time to cross-check the legitimacy of a charitable organization before donating, and keep a list of vetted groups. Use it to aid you in your quest to help the next time there’s an urgent need.

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