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The simple act of reading news online or turning on the television shows that there are people in crisis zones throughout the world. Here are just a few:

  • Poverty and famine in Yemen
  • Disease outbreaks and poverty in the Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Economic and hunger crises in Venezuela
  • War in Ukraine

And while the first instinct after hearing about war, poverty, natural disasters, or other crises may be to offer help, finding the right organization to support can be a challenge. Which will do the most good? How do you know the effort isn’t a scam? Finding a reputable organization that is effective in its work requires a bit of research. Use these tips to find charities that will help alleviate suffering all over the world.

1.     Start with the IRS

Every U.S. charitable and tax-exempt organization needs to file Form 990 annually with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The nation’s tax authority maintains a database of these forms that is available to the public. This is a good place to start if you’re researching whether a U.S. organization is a legitimate nonprofit with an established record.

2.     Consult a charity rating site

Another way to check out nonprofit organizations is to visit a charity rating site like Charity Navigator, CharityWatch, or GuideStar. These searchable databases analyze organizational metrics like annual revenue and the percentage of revenue that goes to programs.

CharityWatch gives “highly efficient” rankings to organizations that spend 75% or more of their expenses on charitable programs versus costs like salaries and administration. Organizations should also have a fundraising cost ratio of no more than $25 per $100 raised. But it’s also important to evaluate the charity as a whole. Some studies and analyses indicate that larger organizations that have more locations, employees, and resources may be effective, even if they have higher overhead.

3.      Get recommendations

In some cases, people knowledgeable about the issues in a particular area may have insight into the nonprofits that are most effective in getting things done. If you know someone who is familiar with the region you wish to help, such recommendations can be helpful when weighing your options. Or look on the websites of various organizations that are doing work in the region and find out how they’re helping. Then, look up the organization on a charity rating site to understand how your donation will be used.

4.     Search for background

Simple searches for the region, plus the words “charity” and “scam” or similar can help you discover complaints about the organization. You can also consult the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance.

Once you’ve found an organization to support, there are a number of ways you can help:

Donate. Monetary donations allow the organizations to use their resources locally to be more effective. You can even indicate that your donation should be used for a specific cause to increase its impact. Find out whether your employer matches employee charitable donations, and you may be able to increase the overall donation even more. Consider organizing a small fundraiser for the organization through your personal contacts or social media.

Volunteer. Many organizations also need helping hands. Organizations like Doctors without Borders, Red Cross, Oxfam, and others have opportunities for volunteers who want to get involved.

Spread the word. You can also help raise awareness of the organizations through your own efforts. Share on social media what you’ve learned about the crisis and how others can help. Write letters to your legislators and urge them to take appropriate action to help the cause. Share information about charitable organizations’ efforts to provide relief.

Once you find the right organization, your efforts can help alleviate suffering across the planet.

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