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    Ask This When Donating to National Crisis or Disaster Funds

    Between hurricanes and mass shootings, there's been no shortage of national crises and disasters to address lately, and if you're like most people, you're ready to help out however you can. In most cases, crisis and disaster funds are set up almost immediately after an event occurs, but deciding which funds to donate to can be a frustrating task, especially given the number of fake funds set up to lure unsuspecting donors. In addition, during times of crisis or disaster, many generous people want to give as much as possible to help those in need, but oftentimes donations are made without truly knowing what will be most helpful. As a result, organizations such as the Red Cross find themselves overburdened by donations that go unneeded, while cash donations or items that are needed are few and far between. Because of this, it's important for donors to research thoroughly before making a donation. If you're considering a donation to a national crisis or disaster fund, be sure to ask the following questions before you donate, so you can be sure your donation goes to the right organization and accurately addresses the needs of the community or organization you're donating to. 

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    Is a monetary donation always best?
    In general, monetary donations are usually best because that money can be used to address a variety of needs. However, in some cases donations of food, clothing and other items may be a high priority, as well. You should always check with the organization collecting donations to find out how you can best help those in need.
    How can I be sure I'm donating to a legitimate cause and not being scammed?

    Look for well-known disaster relief organizations, like the American Red Cross, when choosing where to donate. If you choose to go with a smaller, lesser-known organization, make sure you thoroughly research the organization before making a donation. As a general rule, you should never donate to an individual claiming to raise money to help following a disaster or crisis, especially if it's someone you don't know. 

    Where can I get information about the types of items needed for donation?

    Most major organizations will have a list if items needed or general information about the types of donations that will be most helpful. When in doubt, contact the organization directly to find out whether your donation will be helpful before making your donation.

    How can I be sure that my donation is going directly to those in need?

    In some cases, very little of what you donate goes to the actual people in need, and instead goes to maintain the costs incurred by the organization handling the crisis or disaster fund. While this is not an uncommon practice among charity organizations, some organizations have lower costs and can therefore funnel a majority of donations to those in need. Always be sure to thoroughly research any organization you're considering donating to, so you know that your donation will go primarily to those who need it most. 

    How can I be sure the organization or charity I'm donating to is a legitimate charity?

    You should always ask questions before donating to a charity or organization you are not familiar with. Any legitimate charity should have a clear mission statement, have short- and long-term goals and be able to provide data to back up the work they do. 

    Can I donate money or items directly to those affected by a disaster or crisis?

    In most cases, donating to a community can be difficult without going through an organization in charge of collecting cash donations or items. In some cases, local churches or other community organizations may have drop off locations set up for donations, however. Check with local organizations to learn where your donations will be most helpful. 

    Can I still help if I don't have money or items to donate?

    Even if you don't have money or items to donate to disaster or crisis relief, you may still be able to help by donating your time. Ask local organizations what volunteer opportunities are available that would be most helpful to those in need.

    Will my donation qualify for a tax deduction?

    When you donate to a charitable organization, your donation may qualify for a tax deduction. Before making your donation, as the organization whether your donation qualifies for a tax write-off, and be sure to include the donation on your tax forms the next time you file.