As with most people, my heart and prayers are with the people and animals impacted by the devastation wrought by Hurricane Harvey. When tragedies of this magnitude occur, it's always heartwarming to see an outpouring of public support now made visible through social media: people updating their profile pictures to honor victims of a tragedy, widely shared donation links, and so on.
Just as I find it so important to shop informed, it is so, so very important to donate informed, particularly given the tremendous number of charitable organizations out there. How do you choose where to donate and what to support with so many options?
I have changed my charitable giving patterns since discovering Charity Navigator, so I wanted to share it with all of you in case it is an unfamiliar resource. Charity Navigator shares basic data on charitable organizations and ranks them by how efficiently they are run, allowing potential donors to determine how much of their gift will actually go to the cause they choose to support versus how much is swallowed up by administrative overhead costs.
As one example, I shifted my donations in support of the fight against cancer to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation based on the data provided by Charity Navigator.
Now, as I consider how to donate to support Hurricane Harvey relief, I am so happy to see that Charity Navigator has created an "Easy Button" for me by creating a subpage dedicated to Hurricane Harvey and a few fast recommendations on the groups that are providing critical support to individuals and animals most affected by this storm (these are: Houston SPCA, Houston Humane Society, Houston Food Bank, Food Bank of Corpus Christi, and San Antonio Humane Society). In addition to Charity Navigator, Forbes also has a good list of the largest U.S. charities that includes valuable data for evaluating how these charities will handle your donation.
During a catastrophe, there are definitely those slimy individuals who will try to manipulate the situation for their own personal gain, so be careful when donating to a charity with which you're not familiar. Those douche canoes (for lack of a better term) are few and far between, thankfully, and the more likely scenario you'll encounter is an organization that is donating a smaller portion of donations specifically to Hurricane Harvey relief than you assumed, or an organization not prepared to handle a sudden and large influx of donations, or an organization with a heart of gold that does not manage money well.
Lastly, remember that vulnerable populations are disproportionately impacted by natural disasters: the poor, the elderly, and animals. The devastation on those groups is likely to last long after the hype around a tragedy is over, so please continue to remember them in the months and even years to come.