During and after a disaster such as the Southern California wildfires, it's common to hear pleas for donations and want to help out. As of this time, the creatures at the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park are doing fine, but organizations like the Humane Society are still helping to rescue, shelter, and provide for the needs of displaced pets and larger animals like horses and llamas. If you're inspired to give to a cause (animal-related or not), here's some food for thought to protect your good intentions from someone else's bad ones.
- Pick your passion. Chances are if you're thinking of donating, you already have an organization or a cause in mind. If you're still looking, it helps to search nationally soliciting charitable organizations (and determine their legitimacy) at the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, a merger of the National Charities Information Bureau and the Council of Better Business Bureaus' Foundation.
- Do your homework. If it smells fishy, it probably is. Be careful to avoid charitable scams. Many times, especially when disaster strikes, bogus organizations pop up often with similar or "legit" sounding names. In this situation, give to familiar charities that have a history of working in disaster relief. Always protect your information – don't give card numbers over the phone to solicitors or on the spot cash donations, and keep a record of your transactions. Remember all donations are valuable even offering up your time!