The recent Colorado floods have caused devastation of property, loss of life, and economic distress for thousands in Colorado. I join my fellow Coloradoans in sending best wishes and support for all who have suffered loss. I am so proud, however, of the way our community at-large has stepped up to help their neighbors. We truly live in a special place and I am confident that in the future homes will be rebuilt, roads will be fixed, and people will recover from this terrible incident.
As we are all looking at ways that we can help, I wanted to remind you of a few things that may make your giving more productive and fruitful for you. Although the ‘best of our community’ comes out during a disaster, unfortunately there are also unscrupulous people who will attempt to capitalize on the goodwill of others.
If you are making a monetary contribution toward flood relief, please make sure that it is a reputable charity that is soliciting you. If it is a group that you have never heard of, check with the BBB or the Secretary of State’s office. So many times when there are disasters that occur in our country, we hear stories about people going door-to-door soliciting for the American Red Cross and other scams. The American Red Cross rarely, if ever, solicits door to door. If they were to utilize that strategy their personnel would carry ARC identification. If in doubt, call your local chapter.
Remember to consult your company’s HR office to ask about Matching Gifts. If your company has a gift matching program, your $100 contribution can instantly turn into $200 for the charity. Also, if you are giving specifically for a disaster-related purpose, be clear in communicating that. Well-managed charities want to honor your intent so it is important that they understand your wishes. Please consider giving unrestricted donations. If you trust the charity enough to invest in their work, then you should trust them to determine the highest need at the time. It is possible to receive too much funding for a particular purpose and it creates an administrative burden to contact each donor and get approval to repurpose the donation or to arrange for a refund. Unrestricted gifts allow the group to respond to a disaster, and use leftover funds (if there are any) toward providing ongoing services to the community.
In my days of disaster work, I can remember receiving mountains of in-kind donations that were not needed. If you are going to give clothing, food, furniture, etc, please communicate with the organization and make sure that these items are actually needed. It can cause a lot of logistical challenges to load, unload, warehouse, transport and distribute such items. A full truck load of used clothing that arrives unexpectedly from another state in plastic garbage bags can be a huge problem for an organization whose staff and resources are stretched thin.
Lastly, many people want to give their time during a disaster. There are many charities that can use your volunteer hours, but please check with the group ahead of time to make sure that they need help at the time you are available. Communicating with the charity can make you aware of any special skills needed, locations where volunteers are being deployed, times of day or night when you are needed, equipment required, etc. It can cause a lot of problems for an organization if 100 people just “show up” at an office when the charity does not have the capacity to utilize that many people at one time or at that particular location.
We live in a very giving community. Thank you for caring and for all that you do to help serve our neighbors in need.