Sarah Stultz: Do your homework before giving after natural disasters

Published 9:53 pm Monday, September 17, 2018

Nose for News by Sarah Stultz


Living on the East Coast growing up, it wasn’t uncommon to hear quite frequently about hurricanes and tropical storms. Though my hometown is four or five hours away from the actual coast, it wasn’t uncommon for us to see some effects from them.

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For the last week, I have followed the course of Hurricane Florence — which at one point was downsized to a tropical storm — particularly because of the impact it might have on my parents, who still live in Virginia, and on many other friends who live throughout the state.

While many have been affected by the hurricane, it seems that as of Monday evening when I’m writing this, my parents did not see much damage, personally. Their community, however, has seen flooded streets, and I’m sure the full results of that flooding have yet to be seen.

They don’t live close to Richmond, Virginia, but I watched videos of a tornado that touched down near that city. One person was killed and another injured.

The death toll from Hurricane Florence is 32 — 25 in North Carolina, six in South Carolina and one in Virginia, according to The Weather Channel.

All of this devastation — along with destruction from other natural disasters — leaves many with a desire to help. But what is the most effective way for us to do so all the way up here in Minnesota?

I’ve covered several disasters during my time in Albert Lea, and I’ve covered a fair share of local groups responding to other disasters across the country.

Before you give — whether it’s money, items or otherwise — do your research about the organization that will be the recipient of your kind deed.

The Federal Trade Commission encourages people to find out as much as you can about the charity you’d like to give to, so you can avoid fraudulent charities that are trying to take advantage of your generosity.

The commission advises people to avoid any charity or fundraiser that does the following:

• Refuses to provide detailed information about its mission, costs and how the donation will be used.

• Won’t provide proof that a contribution is tax-deductible.

• Uses a name that closely resembles that of a better-known, reputable organization.

• Thanks you for a pledge you don’t remember making.

• Uses high-pressure tactics like trying to get you to donate immediately, without giving you time to do your research and think about your donation.

• Asks for donations in cash or asks you to wire your money.

Give to an established charity such as the United Way, the Salvation Army or the American Red Cross with a proven record of success during natural disasters.

Make sure your dollars will be put to good use by doing your homework ahead of time.

Sarah Stultz is the managing editor of the Tribune. Her column appears every Tuesday.