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Give Carefully

By Dian Vujovich

The aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti is staggering. Trying to figure out how to help via donations to various non-profit organizations can be too.

Never before have I seen so many different ways to make a monetary donation to help those in that tiny nation.

In the old days, a snail mail check was the easiest and typical way to give. Then came using credit cards to charge your gift. Then, the Internet and the ability to click on a charity’s Web site and donate. The latest, texting. Everybody from Bill Clinton to David Letterman and an assortment of movie and music celebrities in between are asking people to make texting the way to donate.

The State Department’s DipNote blog suggests: “for those interesting in helping immediately, simply text ‘HAITI’ to ‘90999’ and a donation of $10 will be given automatically to the Red Cross to help with relief efforts, charged to your cell phone bill. Or you can go online to organizations like the Red Cross and Mercy Corps Mercy Corps to make a contribution to the disaster relief efforts.”

Sounds good. But as a skeptic, I’m leery of that texting option. So if you’re at all like me, I’m going directly to the charity to make my donation.

Times of crisis bring out the best—and the worst—in us. Re that worst part, tips from organizations like the FBI, Scam.Busters and the Better Business Bureau to insure your money gets where it is intended include: Be skeptical of e-mails from social networking sites; not clicking on any links in those e-mails because they could contain viruses; not giving personal or financial information to individuals or organization you’re not familiar with; and asking questions about the organization such as how much of what’s donated actually gets to those in need.

Most importantly, find out if the charity is registered. One respected on-line charity research source can be found at http://www.charitynavigator.org .

CNN’s Impact Your World has a lengthy list of established and well-known charitable organization sending help to Haiti. Find it at: http://www.cnn.com/impactyourworld . Links will take you directly to the charity’s site. And an NPR story “Haiti: Some Ways to Help” is worth a read at http://tinyurl.com/y94a932 .

Additionally, if you’re into rescue dogs and the amazing work they do, information about giving through the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation can be found at http://www.searchdogfoundation.org .

To read more articles, please visit the column archive.

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