Give blood or cash, both are welcome
the wake of disaster, Americans have always been quick to respond
to victims' needs.
That altruism was immediately evident in the hundreds
of thousands of people nationwide who lined up to donate blood following
the New York and Washington, D.C., terrorist attacks. Even the squeamish
hurried to help, making financial rather than physical contributions
to national relief agencies.
The Internet and many national financial institutions
make it easier than ever to lend a hand in troubled times. And while
the motivation for the donations is selfless, contributors may reap
a tax reward in addition to a spiritual one.
National agencies eagerly accepting
The familiar American Red Cross workers and volunteers are among
the first to appear at natural and manmade disasters. In addition
to supplying medical facilities with blood, the organization helps
provide victims with temporary lodging, basic living supplies, furnishings,
groceries, medications and transportation.
Persons wishing to donate can call (800) 435-7669
for more information in English or (800) 257-7575 for Spanish instructions.
Local chapters also can provide guidance. Check out the
agency's Web site to find the nearest Red Cross branch.
Online visitors can make a credit
card donation using Visa, MasterCard, American Express or Discover.
Or send a check or money order to the Red Cross national headquarters
at P.O. Box 37243, Washington, D.C. 20013.
As with other financial transactions, never send cash
donations. You are out of luck if it is lost and the canceled check
or money order receipt can provide documentation for a tax deduction
next filing season.
In addition to the Red Cross, The
Salvation Army, United
Way and AmeriCares
have mobilized their disaster relief corps.
"Our canteens are fully stocked and our trained
staff and volunteers are ready to go to the crisis scenes at a moment's
notice," says Major Frank Kirk, Divisional Secretary for Business
Administration for The Salvation Army in Northeast Ohio.
Call (866) 429-8888 toll-free to make a donation,
or drop a contribution off at a local Salvation Army center, which
can be found using the
church's Internet search feature. Use Visa, Diner's Club, MasterCard
or Discover cards to make online
United Way contributors can donate online to that
11th Fund. American Express, Visa or MasterCard are accepted
by United Way.
donations to the international relief agency AmeriCares can
be made using Accept Visa, MasterCard, Discover or American Express.
If you prefer, contribute by phone at (800) 486-4357 or mail donations
to AmeriCares Foundation, 161 Cherry Street, New Canaan, Conn. 06840.
Private partners lending a hand
To further facilitate post-disaster donations, groups regularly
partner with humanitarian agencies. That is the case in the aftermath
of the Pentagon and World Trade Center incidents.
Internet bookseller Amazon.com has set up a Red
Cross contribution link. So has online payment service PayPal.
Bank and Firstar
Bank, both subsidiaries of U.S. Bancorp, are accepting contributions
at all branches. The money will be forwarded to the Red Cross. Check
the bank's Web sites or call (800) 872-2657 for the nearest location.
Mutual also is accepting donations on behalf of the Red Cross
at any of its branches. Find one near you with the
bank's Web site locator. Contributions should be made to account
Don't have an account at these institutions? Check
with your local bank. Often individual branches set up disaster
funds to collect money for catastrophic incidents. Call your local
newspaper or television and radio stations for possible disaster
funds they sponsor. And don't forget about programs established
by your neighborhood church or synagogue.
Patience and caution
The keys to making disaster-fund donations, whether in person, by
phone or online, are patience and vigilance.
The outpouring of assistance has been a mixed blessing
for the Red Cross, which acknowledged that some blood donors were
unable to get through jammed phone lines or faced long waits at
some collection centers.
Similar problems were reported by people wanting to
make online contributions. The most frequent complaints: slow Internet
response time and occasional error pages produced by the large number
of Red Cross Web site visitors. The agency urges donors to keep
trying, by phone, in person and online.
And make sure that any fund to which you contribute
is an Internal Revenue Service qualified account. These are the
only donations the agency will allow you to count when you itemize
Too often during catastrophes, good-intentioned fund
originators do not meet IRS deductibility muster when setting up
the collections. Worse, scam artists gather money from well-meaning
contributors and the money never makes it to the purported cause.
Organizations can tell you if they are qualified and
if donations to them are deductible. Or search the IRS'
online exempt organization list.
-- Posted: Sept. 12, 2001