Across the Pastor’s Desk: Smart help for Hurricane Harvey

Published 9:38 pm Thursday, August 31, 2017

Across the Pastor’s Desk by Todd Walsh

The suffering caused by Hurricane Harvey has moved Americans to act on their compassion for those in need. Governments and individuals are on the move in many ways, and it is good to be mindful that those impacted by this storm will endure for years as their lives are put back together. The news cycle sometimes has a short attention span, so we may forget those in need as we move on to the next headline.

Todd Walsh

Many are moved by compassion. Others, sadly, are motivated by greed. Unfortunately, that greed can hinder our willingness to respond with help. It is reasonable to ask if the help we send is used for the purpose we intend.

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Greed and mistrust have trailed along with compassion for a long time. The Bible is filled with such stories. 1 Corinthians recounts one that is timely. Paul is collecting an offering for the poor Christians in Jerusalem. He gives two bits of advice.

First, “On the first day of every week, each of you is to put aside and save whatever extra you earn, so that collections need not be taken when I come” (1 Corinthians 16.2). He’s asking people to budget and to save time on the collection.

Then he gives in to the Corinthians concern that their offering make it to Jerusalem. He offers to bring the offering and to be accompanied by some Corinthians. 

“And when I arrive, I will send any whom you approve with letters to take your gift to Jerusalem. If it seems advisable that I should go also, they will accompany me” (1 Corinthians 16.3-4).

Times have not changed all that much.

Don’t be afraid to check out the charity you are considering in sending a donation to help those dealing with Hurricane Harvey. You can check out a charity’s website. You can also check out others who check out your chosen charity. Charity Watch or Charity Navigator are good ones for rating charities. It is good to ask how much of your donation goes to direct aid and how much goes to administration, including fundraising.

I admit I am writing with a bias, but church-sponsored charities have a good record of getting a high percentage of donations to direct aid, and they do a combination of help that is immediate and long term. Organizations like the American Red Cross and Salvation Army are also exceptional at both immediate aid and sticking around to help people through disasters.

Remember, also, that some portion of donations to many charities goes to administration. You can check out how much goes to administration by doing a little research on a charity. Some charities will also earmark all of the donations for a cause for that cause. They budget other funds in their organization to pay for the administration.

Be aware that many organizations are giving assistance and moving resources with start-up funds set aside for future disasters. Some resources move immediately and the help ramps up as donations are given. And remember, disaster relief continues long after the cameras leave for the next big story.

What if you are called on the phone and asked to donate to disaster relief? Like receiving a call from any telemarketer, I would hang up. If you have caller ID and can identify the caller as a telemarketer, I would not even answer. The scammers love to use the phone, and they also are getting good at fake websites and emails. Use websites or respond to email senders that are established and you are sure of their true identity. Regular mail is safer, because it’s more expensive to generate fake mailings, but I would still send a donation only to a known and trusted charity.

You can probably guess how I’m going to end this article.

Paul says it in 2 Corinthians 9.7 with another of his fundraisers: “Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

And a smart giver.

Todd Walsh is the director of spiritual care services at Thorne Crest Senior Living Community in Albert Lea.