Ravaged Puerto Rico: Here’s how to help after hurricane

NEW YORK — Hurricane Maria has devastated Puerto Rico, destroying buildings leaving its more than 3.4 million residents largely without power. Food and drinking water are also difficult to come by, and the recovery will be long, difficult and expensive.

While the urge to donate clothes and other supplies is natural, money is the best way to contribute during times of disaster, charities and philanthropy experts say. That’s not to say there’s never a time and place for supplies. Diapers, for example, are often requested. And donating directly through a website gets money to a charity faster than a text donation, even though the text might seem easier.

Here’s how to make sure you are giving in a way that matters the most.

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GIVE TO ESTABLISHED CHARITIES

GuideStar’s website has a database that lets you vet charities . You can find information on a charity’s expenses, assets and revenue, as well as its programs. Stacy Palmer, editor of The Chronicle of Philanthropy, also suggests looking at a charity’s website for information on how it will use donations. And look through local news reports for information on a charity’s work, or contact the local United Way (in this case, Puerto Rico’s). It’s up to you whether to go with a local charity that might know the area better, or a national charity that has wider reach.

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TEXTING TO GIVE?

It might be tempting to make a donation through a text and have the phone company charge it on your phone bill. It’s easy, and it might feel as though it’s the quickest way to get money to a charity.

But Palmer says that’s not the case, as charities have to wait for the phone companies to release the money.

The quickest way to give is to go to the charity’s website and donate directly, using a credit or debit card. That said, relief agencies will need money beyond first few days or even weeks, so if the ease of text donations appeals to you, tap away. To donate $10 to the Red Cross via text, send a text message saying “REDCROSS” to the number 90999.

Apple users in the U.S. can also donate to the American Red Cross through the company’s iTunes and app stores to help people affected by Hurricane Maria and the earthquake in Mexico. Amounts range from $5 to $200, and you can’t use store credit. The donations will be split equally between the two disasters.

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