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On November 13, 2015, a series of coordinated terrorist attacks at several locations in Paris, France, left more than 100 dead and many more injured. The attacks were among a string of terrorist attacks conducted by the group ISIS, including one in Beirut, Lebanon, earlier the same week.
Many Americans and others across the world have responded generously with messages of solidarity for the French and offers of assistance to those impacted by the attacks. If you also want to offer support with a charitable donation to help those affected, here are considerations that can help you to decide how to direct your gift in a situation such as this.
NOTE: Donors can support international causes with their Fidelity Charitable donor-advised funds in two ways. You can support a U.S.-based organization with an international mission and operations. You can also recommend a grant to an intermediary charity, such as CAFAmerica or the King Baudouin Foundation United States, which can facilitate a grant to charities overseas.
Charitable organizations play a critical role following every disaster in providing support services for the victims and stabilizing the situation on the ground. These organizations include large organizations with operations in several countries, faith-based groups, or small local charities. Before you support a specific organization, confirm it is collecting in support of the specific disaster. Regardless of the size of the organization, look for charities to support that have a track record of effective disaster-relief response and a way of measuring outcomes. Also, consider providing unrestricted support to these organizations, which can help ensure that the response to future disasters is prompt and effective, wherever they occur.
Support for mental health services is one area of recovery that is often overlooked but essential after a disaster. Traumatic events such as the Paris attacks can leave a long-lasting impact on the mental health of an affected community, including not only the victims and first-responders directly affected, but also the population at large. Some disaster relief organizations offer mental health services as a part of their comprehensive recovery services; there are also nonprofits that specialize in mental health and counseling services, including treatment related to disasters or tragedies. Look for organizations that use proven methods, have a method of reporting outcomes, and serve members of the community who may not otherwise have access to care.
Following a traumatic event such as this, you may have a strong impulse to provide direct support to the families or communities affected.1 Individual support funds may be established by a charity in the days after a disaster to allow such donations to take place. Before providing your support in this way, you should work to understand how donations will be allocated and overseen, the type and frequency of reporting to donors, and whether the sponsoring organization has any track record of successfully administering such funds in the past.
Unfortunately, there are people who take advantage of well-meaning donors in the face of a tragedy. When recommending a grant, be sure to do so with full information — check out the nonprofit’s website, use an online tool such as Charity Navigator® or GuideStar®, confirm that the organization has 501(c)(3) status, and do not respond to unsolicited inquiries or provide personal information. Fidelity Charitable always performs due diligence to ensure that the organization is a qualified charity.
1 Fidelity Charitable cannot make grants in support of specific individuals or specific families.