Hurricane Harvey, which made landfall on August 25, has quickly become one of the most destructive storms in U.S. history. Forecasters say rainfall could total more than 50 inches by the end of the week. Ten people have died and more than 30,000 have been displaced by hurricane flooding.
You may be compelled to help but feel unsure where to start — especially if your funds are limited. So here are our tips for donating in the most financially responsible way possible.
Make Space in Your Budget. It's a great idea to allocate funds in your financial plan for charitable giving all year-round, but if you haven't already budgeted for donations, don't despair. Consider some quick cuts you can make to your immediate spending. Freezing a few subscriptions for a month, skipping Friday's happy hour, or delaying a couple of big-ticket purchases could help you scrounge up Harvey-helping cash.
Donate Your Health or Your Home. Donating money tends to be the most effective, since food and other items are harder to sort. But if it's just not doable, you can give blood, foster a cat or dog, or list your home on Airbnb so Harvey victims can take refuge free of charge.
Vet Organizations Before You Donate. Before giving, you'll want to make sure your money is headed somewhere legit. Consult Charity Navigator, a site that identifies reliable organizations and has a helpful list of those responding to the storm, or peruse the Federal Trade Commission's guidelines for steering clear of scammers. You can also confirm an organization's charitable status by visiting the Internal Revenue Service website. Start with this New York Times roundup for some good ideas.
Give Your Form of Payment Some Thought. This probably goes without saying, but do not (we repeat, do not) send cash through the mail. Be sure to research the organization before you send money via text or payment apps, and make sure all donations made by check or credit card are secure.
Keep Records. Hang onto your receipts so when April rolls around you can itemize your deductions. The tax break you'll receive can help offset the hit on your finances from giving now. This goes for any goods you've donated as well. But remember, you can only deduct donations made to IRS-qualified organizations, and gifts to individuals are never deductible.
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