Finding the Right Charity to Help Tsunami Victims

Release date: December 30, 2004
Williamsburg, Va.—GuideStar, the national database of nonprofit information, offers these suggestions for donors who want to help victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami but don't know which charity to support:

  1. Identify your preferences.
    "Disaster relief" comes in many forms—emergency shelter, food, clothing, potable water, medical assistance, even communications as aid workers coordinate activities and survivors search for family members.

    Think about which activities you want to support. There's no right or wrong answer, just what's right for you.

  2. Search the GuideStar database (
    Click on "Do this search now" in the "Tsunami Relief" box on our home page to find charities that offer international disaster relief.

    To do your own search, click on "More Search Options" on our home page and use our advanced search with a combination of criteria. Try typing "emergency shelter," "medical assistance," or a country's name in the Keywords field and selecting "International Development and Relief Services" from the Category field.

  3. Focus on the mission.
    • Look at each charity's description in the GuideStar search results, on its Web site, or in its literature.
    • Find the nonprofits that fit your criteria.

    All nonprofits listed on GuideStar are either registered with the IRS or have provided proof that they meet the IRS criteria for charitable organizations. If a charity you are thinking of supporting is not on GuideStar, ask to see its letter of determination. If the organization is faith based, ask to see its official listing in a directory for its denomination.

  4. Get the cold, hard facts.
    A reputable charity will:

    • Define its mission and programs clearly.
    • Have measurable goals.
    • Use concrete criteria to describe its achievements.
  5. Avoid charities that won't share information or that pressure you.
    Reputable nonprofits:

    • Will discuss their programs and finances.
    • Don't use pressure tactics.
    • Are willing to send you literature about their work or direct you to a Web site.
    • Will take "no" for an answer.
    • Will answer questions about how your contribution will be used.
Then trust your instincts and contribute to the charity or charities of your choice.

About GuideStar

GuideStar,, offers information about the programs and finances of 1.7 million IRS-recognized charitable organizations. GuideStar powers many on-line giving systems and distributes both free and subscription-based nonprofit data to grantmakers, nonprofits, donors, government charity regulators, and professionals serving the sector. To find out more about GuideStar services, go to

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Suzanne E. Coffman
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