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Here’s what the COO of Charity Navigator told us about Hurricane Florence

U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers distribute cases of bottled water to residents of Merritt Island, Florida, Sep. 14, 2017, in the aftermath of of Hurricane Irma, Sep. 13, 2017. (Staff Sgt. Scott Griffin/U.S. Army Reserve)
September 17, 2018

Before Tropical Storm Florence – formerly Hurricane Florence – made landfall, charity groups were already preparing for donations to roll in upon the storm’s devastation.

Charity Navigator, a nonprofit organization that evaluates U.S. charities, compiled a list of trusted resources for donors to turn to when funding storm relief efforts. American Military News spoke with the organization to learn about what a natural disaster means for charities and donations.

“There are over thirty highly effective organizations identified on the Charity Navigator site that we have vetted and have long histories of providing essential services during storms of this magnitude,” Larry Lieberman, Charity Navigator’s chief operating officer, told American Military News on Thursday.

The organization’s list includes categories of General Aid and Relief, Medical Services, Housing and Shelter, Animal Care and Services, Financial Aid for Families, and Food and Hunger Relief.

“Americans’ generosity really kicks in during times of crisis,” Lieberman said. “Our country is a vast and diverse community — people from every state are motivated to give wherever disaster causes hardship, so situations like Hurricane Florence are a time when millions of Americans go to to read seeking our guidance to identify highly effective organizations to give to,” he said.

Over 1.5 million people were given mandatory evacuation orders ahead of Tropical Storm Florence when it was formerly a category four hurricane. The storm has caused extreme storm surges and flooding, damage to homes, and prolonged power outages.

At least 17 people have been killed from the storm’s devastation.

When Hurricane Harvey ravaged the Texas Gulf Coast in 2017, more than $350 million in donations was raised by 50 charities in just three weeks, according to the Associated Press.

However, the Internal Revenue Service released a statement warning the public about fake charity scams to prey on unsuspecting donors under the guise of hurricane relief. “Be aware of criminals who look to take advantage of this generosity by impersonating charities to get money or private information from well-meaning taxpayers,” the IRS statement said.

“By their nature disasters are chaotic and stressful circumstances where they occur — and also for donors for who want to urgently respond to the suffering they see in the media.  As a result, there can be an increase in unauthorized solicitations,” Lieberman explained.

The Federal Trade Commission warns consumers to research organizations before giving them money. Charity Navigator is one of the organizations recommended by the FTC to screen trustworthy charities.

“Charity Navigator encourages donors to always research the organizations they are giving to and resist the temptation to give cash or give to callers,” Lieberman said.

“Providing free access to unbiased and independent evaluations is our only job at Charity Navigator,” he said. “Last year more than 11 million people used Charity Navigator to guide their giving decisions. During the first half of 2018 Charity Navigator’s audience grew by 4 million new people — this clearly shows the demand and interest in our evaluations.”