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Give wisely for Haiti, experts say

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In recent years, Americans have given generously in response to natural disasters and human tragedy, and their response to the earthquake in Haiti is likely to be as generous.

But they should give carefully, taking time to research recipient charities to make sure donations will be used well, say Giving USA Foundation and the Giving Institute, organizations that track and monitor charitable giving.

In the first five days after the Jan. 12 earthquake, donations totaled $189.9 million, says the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.

That is on pace with contributions made in the wake of the Asian tsunami in late 2004 and Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, and Americans donated a total of $7.37 billion in 2005 for disaster relief.

“Of course, just like with past disasters, once the earthquake news is replaced by other headlines, the need will continue to exist,” Edith Falk, chair of Giving USA Foundation, says in a statement. “So we encourage Americans to give thoughtfully and often.”

To ensure donations are used well, the Giving Institute and the foundation recommend would-be givers confirm the legitimacy of charities through online resources like Guidestar and the Better Business Bureau and to donate only to organizations with a track record in disaster relief.

While it is acceptable for charities to spend a portion of donations on overhead, donors should look for organizations that devote at least 75 percent of contributions to programs and services.

The White House has published guidelines for directing aid to Haiti and those wishing to donate money, supplies or time are urged to contact the Center for International Disaster Information.

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