Want to help? An over­view of what’s needed, what’s not.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Bar­bara Ortutay

Char­i­ties are step­ping up their do­na­tion re­quests in the wake of Har­vey, a se­vere, Cat­e­gory 4 hur­ri­cane that has dev­as­tated South Texas and could still lead to worse flood­ing in the days ahead.

But this is not an ex­cuse to clean out your closet. Money is the quick­est, most ef­fec­tive con­tri­bu­tion most peo­ple can make dur­ing times of dis­as­ter, char­i­ties and philanthropy ex­perts say. And do­nat­ing di­rectly through a web­site gets money to a char­ity faster than a text do­na­tion, even though the text might seem eas­ier.

Here’s how to make sure you are giv­ing in a way that mat­ters the most.

Es­tab­lished agen­cies

GuideS­tar’s web­site has a data­base that lets you vet char­i­ties. You can find in­for­ma­tion on a char­ity’s ex­penses, as­sets and rev­enue, as well as its pro­grams.

Stacy Palmer, editor of The Chron­i­cle of Philanthropy, also sug­gests look­ing at a char­ity’s web­site for in­for­ma­tion on how it will use do­na­tions.

And look through local news re­ports for in­for­ma­tion on a char­ity’s work, or con­tact the local United Way and the local Com­mu­nity Foun­da­tion — in this case Houston’s.

To do­nate to the United Way of Greater Houston, visit unit­ed­way­hous­ton.org/ do­nate.

It’s up to you whether to go with a local char­ity that might know the area bet­ter, or a na­tional char­ity that has wider reach. Palmer says “both kinds of or­ga­ni­za­tions have their place right now.”

Tex­ting do­na­tions

It might be tempt­ing to make a do­na­tion through text and have the phone com­pany charge it on your phone bill. It’s easy, and it might feel as though it’s the quick­est way to get money to a char­ity.

But Palmer says that’s not the case, as char­i­ties have to wait for the phone com­pa­nies to re­lease the money.

The quick­est way to give is to go to the char­ity’s web­site and do­nate di­rectly, us­ing a credit or debit card. That said, re­lief agen­cies will need money be­yond first few days or even weeks, so if the ease of text do­na­tions ap­peals to you, tap away. (You can text the word HAR­VEY to 90999 to make a $10 do­na­tion to give to the Amer­i­can Red Cross.)

Ap­ple users in the U.S. can also do­nate to the Red Cross through the com­pany’s iTunes and app stores. Amounts range from $5 to $200, but you can’t use store credit.

Long-term needs

Do­na­tions of­ten pour in im­me­di­ately af­ter dis­as­ter strikes but peter out dur­ing the long re­cov­ery process. While there are a lot of im­me­di­ate needs, Palmer says, “char­i­ties are go­ing to need sup­port on the long haul.”

Con­sider sav­ing some of your money so you can do­nate again in a few weeks or months. Bet­ter yet, set up a re­cur­ring monthly do­na­tion to sup­port your cho­sen char­ity over time.

For ex­am­ple, the Cen­tral Texas Food Bank, part of a larger net­work of Texas food banks called Feed­ing Texas, ac­cepts “sus­tain­ing” do­na­tions that bill monthly, quar­terly or an­nu­ally. For more in­for­ma­tion, visit cen­tral­tex­as­food­bank.org/get-in­volved.

Some char­i­ties will say when they have raised enough for a par­tic­u­lar dis­as­ter and use any ex­tra money for their gen­eral fund, Palmer says. This isn’t bad.

“One of the things this dis­as­ter shows is that it’s im­por­tant to have re­silience,” she says. “It’s smart to just give and say that it can be used wher­ever it’s most needed.”

Crowd­fund­ing

Group fundrais­ing ser­vices such as GoFundMe let peo­ple raise money for friends, fam­i­lies, neigh­bors or them­selves — as well as for char­ity.

As al­ways, do your home­work be­fore giv­ing to a stranger or cause on­line.

GoFundMe has a spe­cial page for Hur­ri­cane Har­vey pleas for char­i­ties, in­di­vid­u­als and fam­i­lies. Glob­alGiv­ing, a crowd­fund­ing site for char­i­ties, is try­ing to raise $2 mil­lion for local re­lief and re­cov­ery ef­forts.

GoFundMe in part­ner­ship with the Di­rect Im­pact Fund is tak­ing Hur­ri­cane Har­vey re­lief do­na­tions. Tax-de­ductible do­na­tions will go di­rectly to sup­port in­di­vid­u­als with ver­i­fied cam­paigns. For more in­for­ma­tion, visit gofundme.com/raise-funds/ hur­ri­cane-har­vey.

Re­mem­ber that do­na­tions are tax-de­ductible only if they go to a reg­is­tered non­profit or char­ity. Oth­er­wise, they are gen­er­ally con­sid­ered gifts.

Hold off on goods

Do­nat­ing food, cloth­ing and house­hold items can com­pli­cate and even hin­der re­lief ef­forts, ex­perts say. Af­ter Su­per­storm Sandy in 2012, for ex­am­ple, re­ports cited re­lief agen­cies not know­ing what to do with the piles of cloth­ing and other un­so­licited items pour­ing in.

The U.S. Cen­ter for Dis­as­ter In­for­ma­tion says such do­na­tions “re­quire trans­porta­tion — which is ex­pen­sive and lo­gis­ti­cally com­pli­cated — and a pre-iden­ti­fied re­cip­i­ent on the ground who will re­ceive the ship­ment, pay cus­toms and other fees, sort and dis­trib­ute the items.”

Un­so­licited goods, the agency says, are “never re­quired in early stages of re­sponse, and they com­pete with pri­or­ity re­lief items for trans­porta­tion and stor­age.”

It doesn’t mean there will never be a time or place for such do­na­tions — check with re­lief agen­cies as time passes. For ex­am­ple, the Austin Dis­as­ter Re­lief Net­work’s Hope Fam­ily Thrift Store’s re­ceiv­ing dock, 1122 E. 51st St., will be open to re­ceive sur­vivor do­na­tions 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Mon­day through Satur­day.

De­liv­ery trucks will dis­trib­ute goods to local shel­ters in the Austin area as needs dic­tate.

Needed items in­clude new un­der­gar­ments and socks of all sizes, toi­letries, cleanup sup­plies and black trash bags, in­flat­able mat­tresses, hand san­i­tizer and box fans. The net­work — which has set up a Har­vey re­lief fund here, adrn.org/ give — says that other cloth­ing is not needed.

Spe­cial needs

Se­niors, the dis­abled, chil­dren and even pets are par­tic­u­larly vul­ner­a­ble dur­ing dis­as­ters.

Con­sider do­nat­ing to char­i­ties that fo­cus on ad­dress­ing their needs.

The Texas Di­a­per Bank, for ex­am­ple, says di­a­pers (whether for ba­bies or adults) are not pro­vided by dis­as­ter re­lief agen­cies. Again, these char­i­ties need money — not boxes of di­a­pers you picked up at Costco. You can do­nate on­line at tex­as­di­a­per­bank. org and des­ig­nate funds to dis­as­ter re­lief.

Vol­un­teer

If the last­ing com­mit­ment of vol­un­teer­ing ap­peals, var­i­ous agen­cies could use the help.

Sal­va­tion Army Austin vol­un­teers have cooked and served more than 2,000 meals at the shel­ters in Victoria and Cuero and were in Sead­rift on Tues­day, where there is no elec­tric­ity and there is a boil-wa­ter no­tice. The mo­bile cater­ing truck is able to de­liver meals into neigh­bor­hoods where peo­ple are as­sess­ing dam­age and be­gin­ning the cleanup to their prop­er­ties.

For more in­for­ma­tion on do­nat­ing or vol­un­teer, visit sal­va­tion­armyaustin.org/ dis­as­ter-ser­vices.

The Red Cross re­ports that it de­pends on vol­un­teers for 90 per­cent of the group’s hu­man­i­tar­ian work. Vol­un­teers can sign up at red­cross.org/vol­un­teer and call 800-928-4271 for more in­for­ma­tion.

RI­CARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMER­I­CAN-STATESMAN

Krista Har­mon (left) and Natalie Kifer carry items Mon­day at the Cir­cle C Com­mu­nity Cen­ter in South Austin that have been do­nated to vic­tims of Hur­ri­cane Har­vey.

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