What you need to know before donating to Hurricane Matthew relief

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – North Carolina emergency officials have estimated Hurricane Matthew caused $1.5 billion worth of damage across North Carolina, and they still need your help to rebuild and recover with cash donations. Before you reach into your wallet to give, do you know where that money is actually going and who it will help in the long run?

For organizations like the Red Cross, in-kind items like water, food, toiletries and other supplies have been rolling in. However, the need for monetary donations is growing and can be used for immediate needs.

Cally Edwards, executive director for the American Red Cross of Northeastern North Carolina, said cash donations can be used in a more immediate way during a disaster.

“We’re able to put those dollars back into the local community to buy water or buy the resources needed, and that also helps the local businesses in that community as well,” said Edwards.

Edwards said you have to specifically choose where your donation dollars go, by selecting an option on the Red Cross’s website or by making sure your check is marked with where you want your donations to go.

That’s the same situation no matter what organization you decide to donate to. Since this information isn’t always clearly stated when you’re making a donation, non-profit watchdog officials with the website Charity Navigator said it helps to research each charity before you donate.

“It’s important for consumers to understand that a charity is not going to spend 100 percent of their budget on their programs,” said Sandra Miniutti, Charity Navigators’ vice president of marketing. “They do have to pay for mundane things like stationary and fundraising.”

“We have hundreds of thousands of volunteers, compared to a small staff to do these services, so we are proud to say that 91 cents of every dollar goes to the delivery of those services,” Edwards said.

Charity Navigator advises consumers to give to charities that use a bulk of donations for direct aid.

On its website, there’s a list of charities responding to disaster areas Charity Navigator has already vetted to make sure your donations are going to good use.

“What we found for the 8,000 large charities that we evaluate, the vast majority of them are easily able to spend 75 percent of their budget on their programs and services,” Miniutti said.

We reached out to state officials to get some clarity on how your donations to the state’s disaster relief fund will be used.

Trevor Johnson with the state Department of Revenue explained money will go toward long-term recovery efforts. They will use an established program to award grants to other organizations that can help. Those organizations can then purchase building materials needed to repair or rebuild homes owned by people with insufficient or no insurance.

However, to receive funding the work has to be done strictly by volunteers.

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