- No stuff If it requires collection on this end, unloading and sorting on the other end, and transport in between, I don't think it's a good use of resources. As numerous people have pointed out, the time and energy required of volunteers to sort through gifts-in-kind donations - not to mention the need to dispose of unnecessary or unwanted stuff - in general makes this a bad call. Especially since I am on the other side of the country. Why use the fuel to ship stuff thousands of miles when a) resources are much closer to hand and b) one of the things they need is fuel? There's nothing wrong with giving money!
- No new charities I am very leery of any charity that crops up specifically to respond to Hurricane Sandy. Especially in such a charity-rich environment as NY-NJ, the rest of the northeast, and Haiti, why establish a new charity when there are so many already there with networks and systems in place?
- Who do I know? Are there any charities in these areas with which I am already affiliated? Who do I know who lives there? What do they need? Which charities or organizations do they recommend?
- Emergency response or long-term needs? First responders can always use an influx of cash, if not for this crisis, then to be ready for the next one. If what gets to you is wanting someone to be there at the outset, then it's not too late to give; your donation will be used for the next disaster, because there will be one. If, on the other hand, it's the devastation of this specific disaster that has touched you, then I would recommend considering how to contribute for the long haul, which means more thought on your part.
- For long-term needs, what do I want to contribute towards? Spend a little time thinking specifically about the issue or issues that mean a lot to you: children's health? Animal welfare? Homelessness? The arts? Then start investigating who does a good job in those areas in the affected area. Charity Navigator can help you with this. Or again, get in touch with people you know in the area.
- One-time gift or ongoing? Is this something where I want to give an added influx of cash to a local organization to help them with a sudden increase in need? Or do I want to have an ongoing relationship with this organization? Do I have a plan for how much I want to give over how long a period of time?
So there you go! I haven't helped you much, have I? Charity Navigator has a helpful post on responding to Hurricane Sandy that gives some specifics on organizations working in response to the hurricane.
Here's the thing: it's so much easier when someone can tell you, "Give to this organization!" And it's easy to be overwhelmed by the need. But remember: it's OK not to fix everything! Because, to be honest with you, you're not going to.
You know what? There are people in need even in places that haven't been hit by a hurricane. Maybe, as you think about the long-term needs that you think should be addressed, you realize that you can make a far greater difference near your home. And that's OK. Be thoughtful. Be intentional. Be prayerful. And be kind to one another.