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How to respond to the Japanese disaster is complicated for American donors.


It is heart-wrenching to watch the scenes of utter disaster on television. It is a personal crisis on an epic scale and clearly there is a need for housing, food and clothing assistance. And many of us want to do something, but what? Most reports I’ve read say the Japanese government nor Japanese NGOs are asking for help. And Japan is probably one of the best organized and well prepared countries in the world – in fact they have always been very generous in supplying assistance to other natural disasters in other countries.

I received a lot of feedback on my blog yesterday, as well as to an article in the New York Times that I was quoted in. People have strong feelings about donating, and even without a clear understanding of where that help will ultimately go, in our hearts and our actions, we want to reach out to people in times of crisis. Please do not interpret my blog yesterday as saying you shouldn’t act if you want to, or that you’re doing something wrong if you do indeed give. Before you give, however, I would suggest you think of two things:

  1. In this time of crisis, be careful where you give. There’s no need to respond to every email, every phone call or letter you receive. With this much uncertainty, your donation is probably best going to a well-vetted, well-known organization that has proven experience in responding to natural disasters. GuideStar and our partners are trying to give you some help in picking the right ones.
  2. Since we’re not sure about Japan’s abilities to handle the short-term needs of this crisis, you might want to consider holding off on your contribution and giving to some of the efforts to re-build these devastated communities. With tens of thousands of people without homes and jobs, they are going to need our help for a long time to come.

This is one of the moments where giving with your heart –as well as your head – seems to be more applicable than ever.

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 Donating