The past week has been exhausting for many of us.
We followed the variations in Hurricane Irma’s projected path and tried to determine the best plan. Next, we either weathered the storm here or evacuated and will return to discover how our homes and businesses fared.
In disasters, nonprofit organizations have the added responsibility of caring for already-vulnerable people and animals and for those who suddenly find themselves requiring help for the first time. Their needs for additional resources can be significant, as they work to provide food, housing, mental health counseling, blood products, medicine and other essentials.
If you are fortunate enough to have resources to share with others after Hurricane Irma or other disasters, you have many choices. Many people understandably have emotional reactions and give quickly. But taking the time to understand the needs and what you want to accomplish before you give will make your donation have the biggest impact for you and for others.
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Here are a few considerations:
There are nearly 40 community foundations across our state focused on connecting donors with local charitable needs. Working with a community foundation ensures that your dollars are going where help is most needed and to organizations that are reputable and are achieving results.
Manatee Community Foundation (MCF) has been partnering with donors in our community for nearly 20 years. Its Disaster Relief Fund was established to respond to events such as Hurricane Irma. Contributions are tax-deductible, and gifts of cash or appreciated assets such as stock are accepted. If you would like to contribute to response efforts in a different county, MCF can help you locate a community foundation there. Reach out to their knowledgeable staff to ask about a disaster fund, or for a recommendation about where your dollars can make the biggest local difference.
United Ways across the United States also are deeply rooted in their communities. United Way Suncoast serves Manatee, Sarasota, Hillsborough, Pinellas and DeSoto counties. Its team here in Manatee County creates better opportunities for all and works in partnership with Manatee County Government to respond to disasters.
Nonprofits providing disaster relief
Suncoast Blood Bank, the American Red Cross, Meals on Wheels PLUS and The Salvation Army of Manatee County are just a few of the organizations working in Manatee County to address immediate needs in disasters and beyond.
Nonprofits for long-term recovery
It’s easy to develop compassion fatigue watching stories flash across every newspaper and evening broadcast for days on end. But true recovery efforts can last years beyond the headlines.
They are essential and expensive, persisting long after our attention spans have expired. Housing, education and transportation can all require extended strategies and support when families, schools, and vehicles are impacted.
Again, foundations are good resources to contact to determine who is carrying out the long-term recovery efforts in different situations.
Sites such as GoFundMe and Kickstarter are growing in popularity as people raise money for their own unique situations. We caution you to give through these sites when the gifts are not being received by an individual you know personally. An advantage of giving directly to nonprofit organizations is that they are accountable to the public. Gifts to individuals are generally not tax-deductible, and there are no reporting requirements for the results of how the dollars were used.
You can research local nonprofits on The Giving Partner (thegivingpartner.org) to learn more about their programmatic accomplishments, needs, financials, boards of directors and leadership.
Remember, no donation amount is too small to make a difference, especially when combined with the generosity of so many others who care.
We don’t need disasters to bring us together, but sometimes staring our fragile lives in the face helps us understand just how alike we are … and how much we can do.
Susie Bowie is the executive director of Manatee Community Foundation, a charitable foundation that strengthens our community through philanthropy, education and service — for now and for the future. Email SBowie@ManateeCF.org to learn about Hurricane Irma response, relief and recovery.