Like many of you, our hearts go out to those affected by Hurricane Ian. If you are like millions of Americans looking for a way to help, I would encourage you to visit https://www.volunteerflorida.org/serving-during-disasters/ to see the best way to help those in need.
The sudden influx of uncoordinated donations and volunteers can create more problems than they were intended to solve.
Based on Florida’s state Emergency Operations Plan (EOP), EMA recommends that individuals or organizations utilize the Florida Governor’s Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service (commonly called Volunteer Florida) to coordinate donations and volunteer efforts.
Volunteer Florida Website (https://www.volunteerflorida.org/serving-during-disasters/ )– provides a very consistent message to what most/all states would push post-disaster:
Cash is the most flexible and effective form of donation. To donate to the Florida Disaster Fund, Florida’s private fund established to assist communities throughout disaster response and recovery, visit our website or text “DISASTER” ($10) or “DISASTER25” ($25) to 20222.
You’ll see Florida First Lady Casey DeSantis has been very visible and vocal leading the effort for this fund.
If not donating cash, confirm that there is a legitimate need before collecting items and material donations. We also encourage volunteers to affiliate with established organizations and ensure that they are needed before visiting impacted areas.
Volunteers are a critical part of a well-coordinated disaster recovery effort. To volunteer, visit our website and register on the volunteer database. Please be patient and do not self-deploy – organizations will contact qualified volunteers as soon as possible.
Florida’s EOP lists supporting agencies for ESF#15 Volunteer and Donations, I would recommend connecting through one of the following organizations for any support beyond a cash donation:
ACTS World Relief,
Adventist Community Services,
American Red Cross,
Billy Graham Evangelistic Association,
Catholic Charities of Florida, Inc.,
Christian Contractors Association, Inc.,
Christian Disaster Response,
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints,
Church of Scientology Disaster Relief Team,
Church World Service,
Convoy of Hope,
Corporation for National and Community Service,
Episcopal Diocese of Central Gulf Coast,
Episcopal Diocese of Florida,
Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida,
Florida Alliance of Information and Referral Services,
Florida Association of Food Banks,
Florida Association for Volunteer Resource Management,
Florida Baptist Convention,
Florida Conference United Church of Christ,
Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church,
Florida Department of Elder Affairs,
Florida Goodwill Association,
Florida Presbyterian Disaster Assistance Network,
Florida Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, Knights Hospitallers (OSJ),
Lutheran Services Florida, Inc.,
Mennonite Disaster Services,
Operation Blessing International,
The Florida State Conference National Association for the Advancement of Colored People,
The Salvation Army,
United Way of Florida,
How to Avoid Donation Scams?
According to the Federal Trade Commission, there are four key tips to avoid charity scams:
Research the charity. Use charities you are already familiar with at trusted websites.
Make sure you ask in advance how much of each donation goes to the cause, versus goes to cover overhead.
Look up the ratings and report suspicious organizations.
Never pay by gift card, wire transfer, cryptocurrency, or download an app to facilitate the donation.
Keep scammers’ tricks in mind
Don’t let anyone rush you into making a donation. That’s something scammers do.
Some scammers try to trick you into paying them by thanking you for a donation that you never made.
Scammers can change caller ID to make a call look like it’s from a local area code.
Some scammers use names that sound a lot like the names of real charities. This is one reason it pays to do some research before giving.
Scammers make lots of vague and sentimental claims but give no specifics about how your donation will be used.
Bogus organizations may claim that your donation is tax-deductible when it is not.
Guaranteeing sweepstakes winnings in exchange for a donation is not only a scam, it’s illegal.
If you see any red flags, or if you’re not sure about how a charity will use your donation, consider giving to a different charity. There are many worthy organizations who will use your donation wisely.
Report scams to ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Find your state charity regulator at nasconet.org and report to them, too. Share any information you have – like the name of the organization or fundraiser, phone number, and what the fundraiser said.