Monetary donations in disasters may be best choice

RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - National charitable organizations have their hands out stretched for donations to help those impacted by Hurricane Harvey. All of them are asking for money, few want physical items like clothing or furniture. That’s because money can be distributed more easily and in many cases your donation can buy more when it’s in a charity’s hands.

Pictures of Hurricane Harvey devastation are seen throughout the world. Houston residents being forced from their homes and taken to shelters for food and safety.

Lemmon Valley resident Donna Robinson says the pictures are heartbreaking, and in a small way she can relate. She was forced from her Lemmon Valley home because of flooding earlier this year.

Recovery, she says, is slow, frustrating, and at times overwhelming.

“What you have built for years is just devastated. You don't know where you are going to live. You don’t know where your animals are going to go or how long,” says Robinson.

Robinson says she and her neighbors benefited from water, food, and other donations made by the local community over the months they struggled with flood waters.

But in the grand scheme of things, the Lemmon Valley incident was small potatoes compared to the billions of dollars in flood damage in Houston.

In times of disaster, the American Red Cross and other organizations ask for donations from the general public. That sometimes goes counter to what some people want to donate, like clothing or furniture.

But there is a reason reputable organizations ask for monetary donations.

First:, they are liquid. They can be transferred easily and used immediately. Second, the organizations can often get more bang for the buck with their money as opposed to you and me.

But what you may not know is there is a psychological impact on those in need. Robinson says she experienced this first-hand when asked to go through donated clothing and other items.

“I've seen this where you tell them that. And they will come out with dog food. And not even have a dog. I mean they just get so frantic with the whole thing,” says Beverly Paschal, who has a Ph.D in psychology and is a local family therapist

Paschal says it happens because those impacted by disaster often suffer from trauma either short- or long-term. Faced with immediate decisions, they may not make a decision or they may take items they don't need.

A voucher or gift card can shift thinking and help the recipient feel empowered.

“And this way they have a job. And their brain will stop and slow down while they are adding up what they need and how much they have left,” says Paschal.

If you decide to make a contribution, it’s best to pay by check, made out to the charity, or by credit card.

Don’t wire money. It’s like cash and can’t be traced.

Don’t provide your credit card number, your check number, your bank account number or any personal information until you’ve checked out the charity thoroughly.