Make sure your money aids Haiti

By Gerri Willis, CNN personal finance editor


NEW YORK (CNN) -- As pictures and video of the devastation in Haiti rolls in, individual donations are soaring. To make sure your contribution makes the most impact, we have some tips for you.

First, let's take a look at what organizations individual donations are going to. AmeriCares estimates people have contributed $2.5 million dollars. Catholic Relief Services says individuals have donated $4.9 million. Oxfam reports receiving $3.2 million, while the Red Cross has raised $7 million and Unicef has received $6 million from individual donors.

home_rich_cover.03.jpg
For more information on managing your largest investment, check out Gerri Willis' 'Home Rich,' now in bookstores.
CDs & Money Market
MMA 0.36%
$10K MMA 0.33%
6 month CD 0.34%
1 yr CD 0.66%
5 yr CD 1.34%

Find personalized rates:
 

Rates provided by Bankrate.com.

Other organizations have raised large sums including Mercy Corp., $2.5 million, outpacing funds raised for Hurricane Katrina. World Vision has raised $4.34 million -- individuals gave $3.94 million of that amount with an average donation of $219.

But you do have to be wary of scam artists taking advantage of people's generosity.

Be skeptical of people who represent themselves as surviving victims or officials asking for donations via e-mail or social networking sites. Often scammers will insert keywords, like Haiti or earthquake into their sites to trick you into thinking they're legitimate.

Be cautious of e-mails that claim to show pictures of the disaster areas in attached files because the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders.

You can research the charity you're interested in at Guidestar.org, check out the charity ratings at CharityNavigator.org or go to the wise giving alliance of the Better business bureau at bbb.org/charity.

The charities that are going to be the most effective right now are the ones that have been around a while: those charities with the experience, resources and planning capabilities to assist people. Go to their Web site and make sure they're detailing their efforts.

Unless the charity already has staff in Haiti, it may be difficult to get new aid workers in place to quickly provide assistance.

Be wary of claims that 100% of donations will assist victims says the Better Business Bureau. Despite what an organization might claim, charities have fund raising and administrative costs. Here's how you can help now.

-- CNN's Jen Haley contributed to this article.

Talkback: Are you planning on donating? To top of page

Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Overnight Avg Rate Latest Change Last Week
30 yr fixed4.06%4.28%
15 yr fixed3.17%3.24%
5/1 ARM3.52%3.41%
30 yr refi4.04%4.19%
15 yr refi3.15%3.18%
Rate data provided
by Bankrate.com
View rates in your area
 
Find personalized rates:
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 17,083.96 4.39 0.03%
Nasdaq 4,574.73 17.03 0.37%
S&P 500 2,001.34 4.60 0.23%
Treasuries 2.34 0.00 0.17%
Data as of 1:04pm ET
Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 16.11 0.10 0.62%
Apple Inc 102.46 0.21 0.21%
Intel Corp 34.88 0.23 0.68%
Facebook Inc 74.69 0.83 1.13%
General Electric Co 25.92 -0.09 -0.33%
Data as of 12:48pm ET

Sections

Russia's consumer watchdog agency is forcing McDonald's to close 12 outlets across the country over accusations of sanitary violations. More

Gas prices are falling to nearly $3 a gallon in some parts of South Carolina, and that will soon be common in much of the country. More

Netflix told the FCC that its speed on the Comcast network became so slow that customers began dropping their service. More

Whether you've got wanderlust or an airline grievance, here are some apps to pack onto your phone. More

Five CNNMoney readers share stories about saving that you can learn from: What they would do differently if they had another chance. More

Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.