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GuideStar Blog

Disaster Relief


We are on a regular basis updating information on our web site about giving to the Japanese earthquake relief effort . Thousands have died, thousands more are missing, and the death toll continues to rise. The race to find survivors is accompanied by the urgent need to prevent meltdown at nuclear power plants damaged by the natural disasters.

The nonprofits listed here have offered their assistance to those affected by this disaster. To make an online donation to one of them, click on the organization’s name, then click on the Donate Now button in its GuideStar report. If you are a GuideStar Premium subscriber, you will need to log out to see the Donate Now button.

As in previous disasters, we recommend you take the following steps when considering making a donation:

  1. Be pro-active, not re-active. It’s not necessary or wise to respond to every call or request. There is a disturbing increase in the number of fake websites and phony activities. The best way you can protect yourself as a donor is to make sure you are donating to a legitimate charity that has the capabilities to provide assistance services.
  2. Determine what kind of programs you want to support. What are your values and priorities? What matters to you? “Disaster relief and recovery” has many faces—emergency housing, provision of potable water, medical assistance, feeding the hungry, sending in search and rescue teams, long-term rebuilding, and more. Decide which one(s) you want to give to.
  3. Do a little research. Use GuideStar to identify charities doing the work you want to support. Be careful if you haven’t been to the site of a charity before or don’t know the organization well. Con artists often post bogus Web sites and run scam donation campaigns immediately after a disaster. If you aren’t already familiar with a relief organization’s site, protect yourself by linking to it from a trusted site such as GuideStar.
  4. Look at GuideStar’s content partners for additional information.
    • Our partner Give Well, gives information on the international aid charities they recommend – and – recommends holding off on making any contributions until the true need is better understood. Unlike Haiti, Japan is a wealthy and well organized country; their aid needs could be completely different.
    • Our other partners often provide information on disaster relief:
  5. Ask questions. Does the charity have experience working in disaster relief and in particular in the nation where the disaster has occurred? Time is of the essence—lives are at risk, so you want to give to organizations that can get relief where it needs to go quickly and efficiently. How does the charity describe its mission and programs? Its accomplishments? Do the programs support the mission? Does the charity use concrete measurements to evaluate its accomplishments? How do people who have firsthand experience with the charity evaluate its services?
  6. Consider making another gift in a few weeks or months, or giving an unrestricted gift to an experienced organization’s general disaster-relief fund.“Disaster relief” is a long-term process, as we’ve seen in the aftermath of the December 26, 2004, tsunamis, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Donating in a few months or even a year can make a difference in many lives. Regarding unrestricted gifts, remember that relief organizations can’t wait until donations start coming in to respond to a disaster—they have to get to the scene as quickly as possible. By giving to a general relief fund, you give the organization the ability to use your donation where and when it is most needed. Perhaps that will be in Japan today. Perhaps it will be at someplace else in the future. But your gift to a nonprofit’s general relief fund will make a difference.


Bob.jpgThe preceding is a guest post by Bob Ottenhoff,  Chief Executive of the Center for Disaster Philanthropy. With an entrepreneurial spirit, strong technology focus, and a quest to make an impact in the world, Bob has the ability to take an organization and lead it into strong performance, sustainability, and industry leadership.

Topics: Charitable Giving Charity Nonprofits Disaster Relief