Personal Finance

How to donate to Nepal earthquake relief

A man sits on the rubble of his damaged house following Saturday's earthquake in Bhaktapur, Nepal April 27, 2015.
Adnan Abidi | Reuters

Scores of charities are providing assistance to help people devastated by the magnitude-7.8 earthquake that hit Nepal on Saturday.

But how can you be sure your donation will make a difference?

"You need to do your homework," said Sandra Miniutti of Charity Navigator, which rates nonprofit organizations on a four-star scale based on their financial condition and board governance policies. "We are working on how to evaluate charities based on their impact in our ratings methodology, but we think that if a charity is in good financial shape and is transparent, it will have the resources to carry out its mission well."

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Charity Navigator identified 11 nonprofits that have a three- or four-star rating and allow people to designate their donations to go specifically to earthquake relief in Nepal.

The company isn't the only ratings game in town. The BBB Wise Giving Alliance listed 37 charities collecting donations for Nepal that met the organization's 20 standards for charitable giving.

Jacob Harold, president and CEO of GuideStar, a company that maintains of a database of 2.2 million IRS-recognized nonprofits, recommends people who want to immediately support earthquake relief efforts in Nepal donate to GlobalGiving. The nonprofit is an online marketplace that connects people who want to give cash to international causes. GlobalGiving has received top accolades from the Better Business Bureau, Charity Navigator and GuideStar

"It's usually better to give money than stuff after a disaster because it gives charities more flexibility to address the immediate needs of the affected communities," Harold said.

The rush of charitable contributions after a disaster is helpful, but Nepal and other regions hurt by catastrophes may need financial support for years, said Bob Ottenhoff, president and CEO of the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.

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"Earthquakes are more complicated than most disasters because they often strike without warning and require rebuilding of major infrastructure," he said. The center has set up a fund to focus on long-term recovery projects in Nepal.

"There is this intense interest now, but people tend to forget about the area once the cameras go away," Ottenhoff said.