Helping victims of Harvey

Monica Williams with Giving City has tips on how to make sure your gift has the most impact.

Here are some:

1. Monetary donations are the most effective right now. Disaster recovery happens in three stages, and the first stage is about stabilizing families and meeting their basic needs. Organizations use the money to purchase gasoline, supplies, some gift cards or cash to victims, food, water and more. Recovery agencies can leverage your dollar to make it go farther than you ever could, so don't spent $15 on a case of diapers when the agency can use $15 to get three cases of diapers. Give money.

2. Only donate household items if you know there's a specific need. Please do not donate items - anything from clothes to toiletries and diapers - unless you know there is a specific need. Once families are stabilized, they may need donations of clothing, furniture and the likes, but until they're stabilized, your donation of those items is only a burden on the organization you're giving them to. There are shelters and relief efforts across the state, so please call first before you deliver items that might actually be a burden to that relief effort.

3. Be patient about volunteering. Volunteers are needed, but right now it's unsafe to go into flooded areas. The Central Texas Red Cross reports that it processed and trained more than 2,000 volunteers this past weekend. Many are working in its shelter at the Delco Center where about 300 people from coastal communities and the eastern counties of Central Texas are staying, but until the flooded areas are safer, many are waiting to be deployed. Do not be deterred, but do be patient. Remember, disaster recovery is a long haul. You will be put to work.

4. Be careful who you give to. We've been writing about disaster-recovery giving for years, and from past experience we know that right about now is when lots of fake charities start to pop up with names that sound like a real organization. Be wary. Give to only those organizations you know. If you don't know them, do a little digging to make sure they are an official 501c3 that operates in emergency needs, basic needs, disaster recovery and rescue efforts.

5. You can give directly to families in need, but.... If you'd rather bypass nonprofits and other organizations, you can either browse Harvey-related GoFundMe or YouCaring pages or send money to people you know who have been affected. The IRS allows anyone to gift another person up to $14,000 a year without having to report it; do check with your tax accountant to be sure how a sizable gift might affect your tax filings. 

You can get a full list of ways you can help here.

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