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Smart Giving in Response to California Mud Slide

As mud and flood waters start to recede in California this holiday season, plans already are underway to help provide much-needed relief and support in the days and weeks ahead.   

When disaster strikes and needs are of a critical, urgent nature – what are the best and safest ways to help make the greatest difference?

The Charities Review Council offers the following tips on giving smart in times of a disaster and how to exercise caution when responding to disaster-relief appeals:

  • Types of support: The best and most resourceful assistance is often a financial donation to a relief organization already operating in the affected area.  Goods should NOT be sent unless specifically requested by an organization.
  • Where to send a gift: When researching where to send a gift, consider the following:
  • Is the organization legitimate? If an organization is calling you, be wary. Established disaster-relief organizations are often too busy to implement a direct phone campaign during times of disaster.  Don’t be afraid to say “no” over the phone and then contact the organization directly yourself.

Don’t be swayed by emotional or high-pressure solicitations with little or no substance.  Don’t make a donation to an unknown charity over the telephone or via an e-mail request, especially if it pressures you to give immediately, or refuses to send information unless you make a pledge.  Protect yourself by verifying the organizations at the Charities Review Council online with our Charity Search.

How would you like your donation to be spent? Would you like your gift to focus on short term needs such as providing meals, temporary shelter and clean up efforts or help with medical assistance, or longer term needs like rebuilding efforts?

How do you protect yourself from fraud? Always pay by check or credit card, NEVER with cash. Cash can be lost or stolen.  Do not provide your credit card number unless you know the charity and you initiate the contact.

Is the organization accountable to its donors? Don’t hesitate to ask for written information about programming and financial activity.  You can also research that information on the organization’s Website or contact the Charities Review Council at or (651) 224-7030 or 1-800-733-GIVE.

What is the tax status of the organization? If you want your donation to be tax-deductible, the organization must be a 501(c)3 charitable organization.  Ask the organization or the Charities Review Council if you’re not sure. Please check with your tax advisor or the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for more information regarding the tax deductibility of your donation.

About The Charities Review Council:
The Charities Review Council is an independent resource with more than 60 years of experience helping the public make informed giving decisions. The Council is dedicated to empowering the public to make informed and thoughtful giving decisions, in order to be more effective in helping charities advance their important community work. 

For more information, visit the Charities Review Council at or (651) 224-7030 (toll-free 1-800-733-GIVE).