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BBB: Giving wisely to Haiti and Afghan relief is key to effectiveness

Tragedies in Afghanistan and Haiti have moved many to seek out ways of helping these nations’ beleaguered populations. The images from both countries are deeply moving. Many Americans are wondering how they can help. Your Better Business Bureau (BBB) offers its advice on how to maximize your efforts as you look for the right organizations for delivering assistance in response to these two calamities.

In Afghanistan, as U.S. armed forces are withdrawn, some international relief organizations are committed to continuing their work. Experienced observers are warning that a massive refugee crisis is almost certain to come about. The need for food, shelter and other forms of relief will worsen. Haiti is suffering from 2 natural disasters – an earthquake and flooding caused by a tropical storm. 

To be an informed and effective donor, BBB advises:

• Check out the organization you’re considering donating to. Look them up at to see if they meet BBB’s 20 Standards for Charity Accountability. 

• Look into the history of the charity’s work. Experience is key to providing effective assistance. Newly established charities, though they may have wonderful intentions, may not be able to follow through as well as one with experience in that region.

• Go to the charity’s website to see their mission statement. You can also look for a list of their board of directors and their latest financial reports. If such information is not available, you may want to think twice about that organization.

• Check their name carefully. Some groups intentionally try to sound like a more high-profile, reputable charity in hopes you will not notice that they are not the organization you intend to give to.

• Money is better than donating goods. A gift of money to an organization allows flexibility so that aid can go to where it is needed most. (It’s also easier to transport and more cost effective.)

• Watch out for organizations that give vague descriptions of where funds will go. Communication regarding donation use and funding distribution should be clearly given.

• Do you want to get a tax deduction for your gift? If so, search online for IRS Publication 526. It will inform you of which donations count as tax-deductible.

• Document your gift if you are planning a tax deduction for it. Save receipts and other proof of donations for gifts under $250. If the amount of your contribution is above that, it will automatically trigger the charity to provide documentation of their name, the date and the amount.

• Check whether your employer has an employer-match policy to increase your donation’s impact.

• If you are contacted by someone requesting a donation, resist the urge to do so immediately. Take the time to check them out on your own. High-pressure tactics should be completely ignored.

• Remember to consider helping U.S. veterans’ charities at times like this. Your support would help these groups as they address veterans’ issues such as PTSD and other mental challenges. Recent events in Afghanistan may elicit strong emotional responses from those who served there.

If you visit, you can find BBB lists of suggested charities that address specific causes like Afghanistan and Haiti. For answers to other questions surrounding charitable giving, contact the BBB by calling 800-856-2417 or visit