Hurricane Harvey has overwhelmed Houston and much of South East Texas. Despite the massive amounts of water falling from the sky, there has been, thankfully, a remarkably small loss of life as of this writing.
There are a reported 60 dead in Texas to date, while an estimated 1,836 died in 2005 in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Still the damage to lives and property will be enormous in the final count after the waters recede.
Donations from corporations and individuals across America are pouring in to help flood victims. These include food and clothing as well as money. A person would have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by the plight of the elderly and infirm being moved in boats from hospitals and homes. Whole families along with household pets, cows, horses and deer all struggle to keep their heads above water.
There is no question that those charities, churches and first responders closest to the calamity are giving much in terms of services. There is a question in times such as these to make sure that the charities that seek funds are legitimate and that they are well run.
The leadership of these local efforts is utterly crucial. Local leaders and organizations generally have the best knowledge about what is immediately needed. Nonetheless, it must be asked what a donor knows of the leader? Are they trustworthy and capable? What is the track record of the organization? Who are its board members? Do they file a Federal Form 990?
Are the funds they received going to fulfill the program mission, or is it spent on administration and fundraising? Who audits the books each year? It is nearly impossible to know the answers to these questions unless you live in the communities affected. Still a few clicks on the Internet about an organization is better than no due diligence.
For those outside of Texas, the American Red Cross, The Salvation Army, Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse, are among those widely respected national charities to which support can be given. There are others of course.
Donors need to realize there is a long way between their gifts of $10 or even $1,000 and the person in need. In many cases gifts given now may end up helping future disasters whether it be for additional hurricanes making their way to the Southeast of America, or earthquakes, or wild fires in California.
At the same time, there are a variety of government departments and agencies working at the federal, state, county, and city level coordinating governments response to hurricane Harvey.
The further removed government entities are from affected areas, the more they must rely on local knowledge. Huge amounts of time and communication are needed to coordinate effectively. By all accounts, the lessons of Katrina have helped in this complex government response.
Still, government with all its layers of accountability is no substitute for a group of volunteers ferrying people to the safety of high ground where food and shelter is located.
Michael Y. Warder Sr. is the author of "The Right Ask: What Every Advancement Officer Should Know," available on September 26, 2017. Warder has held a variety of leadership positions in a broad array of public policy think tanks and non-profits before establishing The Warder Consultancy in 2014. He was for more than nine years Vice Chancellor of Pepperdine University. Prior to that he was Executive Director of the West Coast for the Children's Scholarship Fund, VP for Development of The Claremont Institute, and EVP of The Rockford Institute in Illinois. In Washington, D.C., he was EVP of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and Director of Administration of The Heritage Foundation. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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