October 30, 2014

How and Why Americans Should Donate for Ebola

Author National Philanthropic Trust

The ebola outbreak is more far-reaching and concerns about its spread have become global. While American private philanthropy to combat the disease was mostly from mega-donors, like Paul Allen who donated $2.8 million to the American Red Cross and Bill and Melinda Gates who committed $50 million to several different groups, including the World Health Organization, there are now more ways for all of us to help. With three confirmed cases in the US, fighting ebola is now receiving more widespread attention—and charitable dollars—among Americans.

As with any disaster giving, there are a few key things that donors should look for when making charitable donations:

Ensure that the charity is legitimate. Unfortunately, crises present a perfect opportunity for scam artists to play on people’s emotions.

Give cash for unrestricted purposes. Unrestricted cash allows the charitable organizations on the ground to address the most immediate needs.

Follow-up. Just because it may not be headline news anymore doesn’t mean that it’s over. Recovery is often more prolonged and expensive than addressing the immediate emergency needs.

The impact that a disease epidemic can have is so much wider than the people it infects. Health care infrastructure is crippled, economies are weakened from reduced travel and business; schools are closed to prevent spreading; and food shortages are common. It is my hope that American philanthropy will respond to these effects before they spread farther and faster.  See our list of charitable organizations that are assisting with this crisis for ideas on where to give.