What To Watch For When Selecting Charities For Harvey Relief

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Seeing the devastating pictures out of Texas amid Tropical Storm Harvey has been almost like déjà vu for many New Yorkers.

As CBS2’s Andrea Grymes reported, many remember the destruction and fear that also struck the Tri-State Area five years ago during Superstorm Sandy.

“You can relate what you’re watching, of course,” said Brian Louisa of Staten Island. “I feel bad for them, you knowm because I went through it too.”

That has compassionate Tri-State residents looking to help.

But how do you make sure your money goes to those who need it most?

Photos: Harvey Hits Texas | Harvey Flooding: How You Can Help

“I want to donate, and I will donate, but I’m researching who is the most trustworthy,” said Nicole Sabatini of Staten Island.

That is exactly what the New York State Attorney General’s office recommends – do your research.

As WCBS 880’s Mike Smeltz reported, state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said he would advise donating to charities you are familiar with – big names that have been around for a while “and find and organization that has experience, and has a record of providing disaster relief.”

The office points to several websites that evaluate charities, including Charity Navigator, CharityWatch, Guide Star, and the Better Business Bureau.

“Everybody’s well-intentioned, but what people need to see is, does the charity have boots on the ground? Can they actually help?” said Claire Rosenzweig, president and chief executive officer of the Better Business Bureau of Metropolitan New York.

The BBB is keeping a running list of accredited charities with boots on the ground in Texas.

A few include the American Red Cross, the MHouston Food Bank, and United Way of Greater Houston.

They say to be cautious about giving gifts of clothing or food, unless the organization has experience with disaster relief.

Schneiderman said if you ask questions about what your money will be used for, legitimate charities will willingly provide the information. But the ones that are not legitimate will be less forthcoming.

“Anytime you call a charity, if they are not willing to give specifics about how they spend the contributions; what they do with excess donations, you should just walk away and go to another charity,” he said.

Schneiderman also suggests directly donating to a charity, instead of texting your donate, since typically, money does not make it to the charity until you pay your phone bill.

Also, experts advise, be cautious of crowdfunding sites such as GoFundMe – unless you know the person accepting donations.

The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation has a four-star rating, as well as experience with building homes – especially after Sandy.

Tunnel to Towers is now raising money for efforts in Texas – both short-term and long-term.

“There’ll be no admin cost taken out. Every dollar that is donated — you give us a dollar, a dollar will go to Texas,” said Frank Sillre of the foundation, “and you can bank on that.”

Experts say another tip to keep in mind when deciding where to donate is to beware of unsolicited requests on email, text, or phone calls. The person on the other end may not be legitimate.

The Tunnel to Towers foundation has a group heading down to the Houston area on Thursday.

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