Unless you are just waking up from a coma, or have been living under a rock, you are aware of the devastation that has befallen Japan after the earthquakes and tsunami.
I choose not to glue myself to any sort of news media when these things tend to occur. I want to get the pertinent information and then tune it all out. It’s not because I’m insensitive, in fact, it’s because of the opposite. I’d be drawn in, worried by all the media’s ‘possibility’ angles and the conjecture of what could happen elsewhere. I’m very concerned for the people and their plight, but *I* personally can’t stop the subject from bashing around inside my head like a moth to flame if I engage too much of it.
Instead, I like to be a part of the next step. I would rather focus my energy on what I can do to improve the situation that these people find themselves in. Usually, this means a donation of some kind. Money, goods, and if I can, time and labor are the responses I lean towards.
So today, I went in search of an organization that I felt comfortable donating to.
This might sound like a rather odd statement, but regrettably, some people see opportunity at every turn. Charities are always fertile feeding grounds for less than savory characters who like to prey on the kindness and willingness of man to help his neighbor.
Years ago, I donated often to just about anyone who called me. We were a family of 6 living on one salary and there was very little discretionary income. I’ve always wanted to help whenever I can. It goes along with being grateful for what I had and understanding that others have less.
I don’t recall what tipped me off, whether it was a letter or just a question asked of the telemarketer who was soliciting donations (I tend to believe it was the latter) but the information that came to me was fairly astonishing. This charity, that I had given so freely to in the past, only sent a fraction of my donation to the recipients and kept the rest as administrative costs and overhead. That meant that out of my dearly scraped and hoarded $10.00 that I donated to someone else, about 50 cents was going to the charity. It turned my stomach to find this out, and it was only available information if you asked. Now, you have to ask in writing to get a disclosure statement and many fundraisers will not reveal over the phone what percentage the charity will actually receive from your donation.
Enter the age of the internet. Donations are far more easy to collect now that we have the web, and sadly, just as many are waiting in the wings to bilk the concerned public from their funds. That’s why, when I decided I wanted to give to relief efforts for Japan, I was very careful to look up the organization I chose.
When disaster strikes, most people automatically think “Red Cross”. I am not belittling the Red Cross efforts in the slightest, but I did feel uncomfortable when I read,
Donations to the American Red Cross can be allocated for the International Disaster Relief Fund, which then deploys to the region to help.
What that says to me is that the Red Cross can decide how much they are willing to spend on that disaster, no matter how many donations come in for a specific event. You may have your own reason for wanting your money to go to just the Japanese, but the Red Cross may decide that another event may need those dollars more. I respect their model for trying to stay open to help no matter when or how many events may occur, but that’s not the way *I* wanted to give.
I also looked into Salvation Army. Another highly reputable organization with a long history of helping. If it wasn’t tied directly to a single religion, I’d be more apt to donate there.
I looked at a few more options and finally stumbled on to www.charitynavigator.org
At Charity Navigator I was able to type in the name of the charity I was interested in and get a report of how much goes to the program, how much goes to the administrative costs, who the president was, what their compensation is, how much they’ve raised and how much they’ve paid out on their programs and just about any other thing to make me feel comfortable enough to give freely.
For Japan’s efforts, I chose Americares. It has a four-star rating based on its statistics (Red Cross only got 3) and I felt that this was the correct choice for me.
No matter what the event is that you wish to donate towards, I urge you to give wisely. Check out your charity with Charitynavigator.org and then give freely and with love and support for your fellow-man.