How to Help the Haiti Earthquake Relief Effort, Avoid Scams

The tragic images pouring out of Haiti have inspired Americans across the country to help. Even in tough times, Americans have a generous spirit.

But whether you donate your time or your money, you'll want to know it's well spent.

Let's start with the Do's and the Don'ts.

You should give to a group with disaster relief experience that will make good use of the money. It's also best to give to a group that had operations in Haiti before the earthquake, so its personnel and equipment are already there.

VIDEO: Dos and Donts of Donating

Third, give to an organization that meets the Better Business Bureau's 20 standards for charity accountability.

What Are Some Major Groups That Have Already Been Vetted?

The granddaddy of them all is the American Red Cross.

World Vision is already distributing first aid kits and other staples in Haiti.

Save the Children is focusing on children and families and taking truly grass roots actions like sending out motorbike teams to help people in the capital.

Care USA is distributing stocks of high-protein biscuits that it already had in warehouses in Haiti.

Click here to see other good groups working to help with Haiti. To find out if a charity meets the Better Business Bureau's standards, visit

Can I Donate Supplies Instead of Cash?

It's not a good idea to donate supplies, since getting them to the affected area costs money because of shipping and storage needs. Relief groups prefer to buy supplies in the country affected, because that has the added benefit of stimulating the local economy.

For people who have already started gathering supplies, one suggestion is to sell them to raise cash and donate the cash.

What About Volunteering?

There are opportunities for volunteering, but on a limited basis.

Relief groups are only interested in people with previous disaster relief experience and technical expertise.

For example, doctors and nurses and people with knowledge of telephone service, water, sanitation and engineering.

If you would like to volunteer, you should register with the Center for International Disaster Information.

Click here to visit the CIDI Web site.

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