Making Sure Your Help Gets to Hurricane Harvey’s Victims

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Christopher DeLorenzo

It’s admirable that Americans’ first instinct when disaster occurs is to open their wallets and volunteer their time. Since this has never been a nation that relies wholly on government to take care of those in need, citizens’ first impulse is to pitch in, whatever their politics or faith.

As the first images of suffering emerged from Houston, the flow of cash, food, clothing and rescue equipment into Texas seemed to rise in tandem with the floodwaters. Yet it’s inevitable that not all this largess will reach Harvey’s victims, or be well spent. For that reason, it is important for Americans to be as discerning with their money as they are philanthropic, avoiding scams and asking for greater accountability from trusted charities like the American Red Cross.

The Red Cross is the flagship of charitable institutions. It is also a master of promotion. After every disaster, its ads, celebrity testimonials and distinctive logo are everywhere, beseeching Americans to donate blood and money. This week Barack Obama became the Red Cross’s latest Twitter pitchman, urging Americans to make a $10 donation by texting “HARVEY.” During President Trump’s televised update on the response in Texas on Tuesday, a Red Cross representative sat front and center. Corporations find donations to the Red Cross a ready way to demonstrate they care: The organization has already raised millions from JPMorgan, Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Dow Chemical and others for its Harvey efforts.

This is all to the good, assuming the money flows to the right places. But after years of media reports documenting the Red Cross’s disaster relief failures — including after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Sandy and the Haiti earthquake — some Americans instead are giving to smaller, local charities with a track…

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