As we all know, Japan has suffered not just a major earthquake, but a tsunami, and now a potential nuclear incident. The people of Japan and other areas affected by this tragedy need our help and the best way to help if you cannot physically do so is through charitable donations. Something I learned in my 14 years in the non-profit industry, is that not all charities are alike. Many of the biggies in disaster relief may not be the best investment of your charitable dollars. Some of them have been investigated for misappropriation of funds, tax issues, or for poor return on investment (larger administrative costs versus program costs). This is where a site like Charity Navigator can help.
Charity Navigator is an independent charity evaluation source that evaluates the financial health and rates over 5,500 American charities based on financial solvency as well as return on investment. Please note that many religiously affiliated organizations such as the Salvation Army are not evaluated because many are exempt from filing a 990 (tax form for charities). I can tell you that the Salvation Army has had it’s issues with the IRS (simply do a Google search).
In the wake of the disaster in Japan, Charity Navigator has put together a list of organizations providing relief based on their positive ratings. You can find the list here. I believe that if you are going to invest in a charitable organization and you want your money to be used wisely and for the most direct aid to Japan and other areas affected, you should invest your money in the organizations that use your money wisely.
Other charitable evaluators include:
American Institute of Philanthropy: Highest rated organizations involved in Japan disaster relief
These are the three main charity evaluators in the US. If you know of any similar organizations for other countries, please let me know and I will add them to this list.
As the events in Japan continue to unfold, the people of Japan and all those affected shall be in my thoughts and prayers.