It's extremely frustrating to feel helpless. And that's how I felt when I watched images of the horrifying tragedy in Japan flash across my TV screen. I'm sure hundreds of thousands, if not millions, share similar sentiments. When a disaster first hits, the urge to give aid can sometimes be overwhelming, and many will rush to donate. However, that's not always the wisest approach.
Many of you have probably chosen to go with the Red Cross because that seems to be the go-to charity that everyone from Britney Spears to CNN is promoting, but there are actually other really great options as well. It's crucial to check the history of nonprofits in Japan to make sure the donations are actually being put to proper use, and picking NGOs that understand the infrastructure of Japan is really important. A savvy alternative would be the Salvation Army, which is an NGO that has been in Japan since 1895 and has set up more than 80 centers. Read on for tips on the best way to donate to Japan.
- Do Your Research. Before you hurriedly text away your money, you need to make sure you are donating to the right charity. Don't feel bad about holding off on donating your money; it can actually be a better idea. "It is important to wait and allow the charity effective time to develop a plan . . . middle to long term development work," Charity Navigator VP Sandra Miniutti tells Gizmodo. As one of the leading NGO experts, Charity Navigator has a number of great tips for people who are looking to give to Japan. In addition to the tips, the site has a nice list of NGOs that have already precommitted to helping Japan.
- Don't Go With the New. Charity Navigator advises to pick organizations that have a "proven track record of success in providing disaster relief on a massive scale and one that has worked in Japan and the other impacted regions." It's also helpful to specify where you want your donations to go, because charities might put the money toward other pressing causes.
- Find Out Where Your Funds Are Going. Know that for many charities, the surplus funds may go to other disasters. This might be a problem for you if you set your mind on donating specifically to a single disaster like the Japan Quake situation. If you want more transparency, look to organizations such as ShelterBox, which will tell you exactly which disaster relief fund your money ends up going to. You can also email the organizations directly to ask how your donation will be distributed. Again, it's better to wait to see which areas need monetary help before donating.
- Reconsider Texting. It's so easy to text your donation, but the transfer of money from your text donations is not as immediate as it looks. It takes 90 days for your text donations to reach the designated charity, according to the DailyWorth. Not to mention, a five to 10 percent administrative fee will be deducted as well. The fees might also apply to online donations, but one of the advantages of donating through the web is that the NGO will be immediately notified of your donation.
- Be Aware of Taxes. Generally, donations to foreign charities aren't deductible, but there are plenty of local ones for you to pick from. If you're willing to chance it, there's a possibility that donations to the Japan disaster might be deductible. For example, Congress passed a law that allowed everyone who gave money toward the Haiti relief funds the option of deducting it on their tax returns.
- Create Your Own Initiative. There are other ways to help the cause without spending a penny. Inform people you know of who to give to and just get the word out there. Post on your Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr and email friends and family. You can even organize your own fundraising drive and donate your time and energy instead.