Things are… not great now. Hurricane season is clobbering the Caribbean, earthquakes are plaguing Mexico, the Pacific Northwest is on fire. Understandably, you want to help, and often the best way to help is a monetary donation to a relief organisation. And it seems like the best thing to do is to earmark your funds for the specific emergency you're responding to — after all, that's why you're donating. But first, consider this.
Photo: Getty / Spencer Platt
Ideally you're donating to an organisation you trust, whose work you support and whose mission you believe in. And odds are they're working in more arenas than just the latest, most publicised crisis. But they're also there, too. So let them spend your money where they need it.
If you go to make a donation on Doctors Without Borders' website, for example, you don't even have the option to earmark your donation for a specific country or response effort. (You can mail in a check or make a restricted donation over the phone, if you insist.) A note on the sidebar says:
For Doctors Without Borders, the ability to respond quickly to medical humanitarian emergencies is crucial to saving more lives. Unrestricted funds allow us to allocate our resources most efficiently and where the needs are greatest.
And it's true — hopefully, a disaster relief organisation is on the ground before your donation is processed, or they're even there in anticipation, before a storm or other crisis hits. They need to have supplies on-hand and volunteers and staff trained and ready to help. Unrestricted funds help organisations be prepared for the next emergency, too.
Even better: Set up a recurring donation. Even if it's small, spreading what would be a one-time gift across the year, this ensures a steady cash flow that allows the organisation you're supporting to plan into the future. The future which will surely be devoid of big disasters. They can use the leftover funds to bake their first reponders a really excellent thank-you cake.