Continuing Care

3 minute read
BARBARA KIVIAT

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nginx/1.14.0 (Ubuntu) With billions of dollars already pledged to tsunami relief and celebrity benefits still pitching, donating may seem a tad less urgent these days. But the truth is, your money is still needed. Victims along the 3,000 miles of battered coastline from Sumatra to Somalia face years of rebuilding and the risk that disease could push the total number of lives lost far above the current estimate of 300,000. Still, it is more important than ever to be smart about how you give — to make sure your funds have the impact you want. A guide:

WHAT KIND OF HELP IS NEEDED NOW? While immediate relief needs are being addressed, long-term development work — rebuilding schools, making microloans to rejuvenate businesses, providing trauma counseling — has barely begun. Large international charities with development projects in places like India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Indonesia include Oxfam, care, Save the Children and World Vision. “Emergency aid is vital, but we can’t just rebuild the poverty that was there before,” says Oxfam spokesman Brendan Cox. “We have to aim for reconstruction plus.”

HOW DO I PICK A CHARITY? If you already support a charity that works in the affected areas, such as Oxfam or ActionAid, then send your donation to them directly. Since you’ll already be on their database, this will cut down on their administrative costs. Alternatively, you could give to an umbrella group such as the Disasters Emergency Committee in Britain (www.dec.org.uk) or Aktion Deutschland Hilft (www.aktion-deutschland-hilft.de) in Germany. These groups coordinate donations for several national charities and ensure that money goes to organizations best placed to help those in need. If there is a specific charity you admire, you might want to consider giving an unrestricted donation, which allows the charity to allocate the cash where it’s most required. One warning: be wary of e-mails soliciting donations on behalf of specific victims or foreign governments. The hucksters and scammers are out in force.

CAN I BYPASS THE BIG CHARITIES AND GIVE DIRECTLY TO LOCALS? Local organizations are tough to vet, but they have a certain appeal. Big international charities often have to work through a host country’s government, which may have an agenda of its own (suppressing separatists in Aceh, to use Indonesia as an example). If you prefer a local charity, stick to those that have partnered with more well-known organizations, suggests Eric Thurman, CEO of Geneva Global, a group that hooks up wealthy American donors with charities abroad. For example, leads is a Sri Lankan relief group that has worked with Tearfund, a British umbrella group. Another possible route: contacting organizations in immigrant communities where you live that may be providing direct aid to families.

HOW CAN I MAKE MY DONATION TAX EFFICIENT? Tax regulations vary from country to country; you should consult your tax authority or accountant to see if your donations are deductible or if they can be “topped off” by a government agency. In addition, some countries, such as Britain, allow you to maximize your donations by having them taken directly from your paycheck.

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