The nation was rattled this weekend after two mass shootings in less than 12 hours left more than 30 people dead and dozens wounded.
On Saturday, a gunman opened fire at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, killing 22 people. On Sunday, a second shooting took place at the popular Oregon nightlife area in Dayton, Ohio, where nine people were killed.
The massacres have reignited the debate over what to do about the frequency of mass of shootings. The New York Times reports there have been 32 fatal shootings with three or more victims this year. The Gun Violence Archive, which has a slightly broader definition, counts 255 mass shootings in 2019 (the nonprofit defines a mass shooting as "four or more shot and/or killed in a single event").
There are several ways to help the victims and their families. Below, a few suggestions on how to get started.
If you live near El Paso, the blood donation center Vitalant is accepting blood donations. On Saturday, Vitalant reported over 240 units went to help victims. Its two El Paso centers were at capacity over the weekend, but Vitalant is urging those interested in donating to schedule an appointment over the next three weeks.
"It is still important. We still need you. We want to be certain we have blood on the shelf for the coming days and week," Vitalant said.
In Dayton, hospitals reported having an adequate blood supply on hand to respond to the shooting, according to the Dayton Daily News. To replenish that supply, the Community Blood Center will be accepting donations starting again on Monday.
Here are a few organizations that are specifically raising money to help the El Paso and Dayton victims, their families and the wider communities. Keep in mind that it's generally better to donate money than physical items such as food or water. In fact, the El Paso police tweeted on Saturday that no more food or water was needed.
El Paso Community Foundation
El Paso Community Foundation set up a victims' fund to help those affected by the shooting. The organization, which is working with the County of El Paso and the City of El Paso to provide aid and assistance, is waiving the administrative and credit card fees for all donations. The foundation reported on Saturday that FirstLight Federal Credit Union pledged to match $25,000 in donations. Charity Navigator currently rates El Paso Community Foundation's efforts as three out of four stars.
Paso del Norte Community Foundation
Another local organization, the Paso del Norte Community Foundation, has set up the El Paso Victims Relief fund to help "support victims and their families affected by the tragedy." This organization is not rated by Charity Navigator, because it does not have seven years of IRS filings.
The Dayton Foundation
On Sunday, the Dayton Foundation established the Dayton Oregon District Tragedy Fund to help affected families. The nonprofit says it will waive the credit card processing fee, "so that 100% of the money will be used to assist others." Charity Navigator currently rates the Dayton Foundation's efforts as three out of four stars.
Public Good campaign
If you're looking to donate to victims of both shootings without visiting multiple websites, Public Good is sponsoring a campaign that aims to help the communities of Dayton and El Paso deal with the aftermath. Your donation will be split between the Dayton Foundation, El Paso Community Foundation and the Paso del Norte Community Foundation all at once.
Before you make a donation, it's important to confirm the legitimacy of the nonprofit. The easiest way to verify a charity is to look it up on a watchdog site such as Charity Navigator, CharityWatch, BBB Wise Giving Alliance and Great Nonprofits. These sites rate nonprofits and allow you to find out more about the organization and how donations are spent.
Many of the groups who are helping the El Paso and Dayton victims are small, so they may not be rated. If that's the case, you can usually find information on their website about their effectiveness and how donations are spent.
"We always recommend doing your research," Larry Lieberman, chief operating officer of Charity Navigator, told CNBC Make It. His site's ratings are based on two main components: the financial health of the nonprofit and the accountability and transparency with which they handle funds.
When donating to a campaign on GoFundMe and other crowdfunding options, you should have a clear understanding of where the donations are going and how the money will be used. "Take a look at who is collecting the funds," Lieberman says. "If the person running the campaign is someone who works directly for the organization or is someone you know or a friend knows, then you can donate more confidently knowing that someone isn't taking advantage of your generosity."
GoFundMe has a team that works to verify each campaign and ensure the funds get to the intended recipient. If the funds are not delivered, GoFundMe offers a donor protection guarantee.
Editorial note: This version deletes a section about getting involved.