The tragic hurricane and flooding in Texas filled the news in the U.S. this week. And because so many of us want to help however we can, it’s a good time to remember that generally the best thing you can give is money, in whatever amount works for you.
Yes, sometimes relief organization will ask for specific donations, and if you’re in the area that might indeed help, if done well. As Kelly Phillips Erb noted in an article for Forbes:
Check with the organization first. While most organizations prefer cash, there are some soliciting in-kind donations. … Those wish lists may change as needs are assessed and storage for items may be limited. Check with the organization before you send or drop off anything.
I’ve gathered some examples of the wish lists I’ve seen lately regarding efforts to provide relief from the storms in Texas.
When Ron Nirenberg, San Antonio’s mayor, announced some donation collection sites, he was clear about what was wanted:
Nirenberg said that the city council offices will be used as additional drop off locations for donations. They will be collecting any food, new clothes, diapers, pet food and other supplies. The mayor wanted to emphasize that no used clothing will be accepted.
In another example, one of the shelters noted the donations they were seeking as of Tuesday morning:
As of 9:45 a.m., here is an updated list of items needed at the GRB shelter:
- Toiletries – travel size shampoo, conditioner, soap
- Bottled water
- Individually packaged food
We do not need additional clothing donations at this time.
Trusted World is looking for the following supplies: New underwear and socks (all sizes), non-perishable food, toiletries, feminine hygiene products, baby diapers, wipes and formula.
SPCA of Texas is looking for the following supplies: cat litter, litter boxes, towels, blankets, large wire crates, toys, treats, pet beds, newspaper and gas gift cards.
You’ll notice that most of the requested things are new items — not (in general) the kind of things you would bundle up from cleaning out your closets. Of course, there are a few exceptions. For example, if you live locally and you can safely get to a shelter that wants toiletries — and you accumulate all those little hotel bottles — this might be a great time to unclutter.
If you want some good insight on why unsolicited donations of stuff is a bad idea, CBC Radio has a great explanatory article, which begins as follows:
It’s called “the second disaster” in emergency management circles — when kind-hearted outsiders send so much “help” to a disaster zone that it gets in the way.
Unwanted donations of physical goods can divert important resources as people on the ground must deal with them — sort and store, for example.
If you live outside the disaster area and you really want to donate something specific, not just send money, you can look for organizations that have Amazon wish lists (or other such lists) and then purchase exactly what’s needed, knowing it will be shipped to the right people to handle your donation.
But otherwise, you might want to heed this thought from Alexandra Erin: “Relief donation tip: money does not have to be cleaned, sorted, stored, or inspected and can be turned into whatever resource is needed.” If you decide to go this route, there are many lists of organizations that would appreciate your support, including one from Texas Monthly.