Personal Finance

If you want to help Harvey victims, cash is best

Key Points
  • Federal officials expect 30,000 people in the Houston area to relocate to shelters.
  • Some areas have already received more than 40 inches of rain.
  • Donating cash instead of goods is the most effective way to assist.

For those affected by the catastrophic flooding in southeast Texas, the generosity of the rest of the nation will help make a difference in their ability to recover and rebuild.

Harvey already has dumped more than 40 inches of rain in parts of Houston, and more than a foot of rain is expected to fall in the next few days over portions of the Texas coast and Louisiana. The National Weather Service today also warned of possible flooding in southern Mississippi and southeastern Louisiana.

Federal officials expect that in the Houston area alone, at least 30,000 people will relocate to shelters and 450,000 victims will seek disaster assistance.

People should have been told to 'get out of town': Fmr. FEMA director
People should have been told to 'get out of town': Fmr. FEMA director

If you want to help, the most effective way is cash donations to organizations that have deployed volunteers to assist victims in the areas affected. While shipping off blankets or other items might be well-intentioned, "you don't want to clog up the supply lines," said Daniel Borochoff, president of

Be aware, too, that scam artists typically emerge after disasters to prey on the charitably inclined. Spam emails or social media posts seeking donations for Harvey victims might look legit, but it's best to check out the group if you're unfamiliar with it.

Just because someone shares something on Facebook, doesn't mean they've checked out the group.
Daniel Borochoff

"Just because someone shares something on Facebook, doesn't mean they've checked out the group," Borochoff said.

And while taxes might not be at the forefront of your mind right now, remember that charitable donations to qualified nonprofit groups generally are tax-deductible if you itemize your return instead of taking the standard deduction, so keep your receipts.

Additionally, crowdfunding sites have campaigns going on. Among them is, which is hoping to raise $2 million exclusively for emergency disaster relief and long-term recovery efforts. has an area on its website dedicated to fundraising efforts for Harvey victims, as does

Among the well-known groups taking donations specifically for victims of Harvey:

1. The American Red Cross, which has shelters open and is getting supplies to victims, is accepting donations on its website via a dedicated link. Donors also can call 1-800-RED-CROSS or text "Harvey" to 90999 to make contributions. Alternatively, some companies are collecting donations for the Red Cross relief effort on their websites. Among them are Amazon and Whole Foods, which will match cash donations (up to $1 million total).

2. The Salvation Army, which says it has disaster teams from across the country mobilizing to help Harvey victims and will support long-term recovery efforts, is also taking donations on its website. Or, you can call 1-800-SAL-ARMY or text "STORM" to 51555.

3. Catholic Charities says donations for Harvey victims will go toward food, clothing, shelter and a network of support services for those dealing with the aftermath of the storm. Contributions can be made via its website or by calling 713-874-6654. You also can text "CCUSADISASTER" to 71777.