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A part of the current COVID-19 landscape is beginning to look like a repeat of the months and years following September 11, 2001. Back then everyone wanted to help the heroes of that awful day. There are wonderful charities that provided a great deal to FDNY and NYPD and the families of firefighters and police officers we lost. But there were also many “charities” that did little more than enrich the people running them. They diverted generous donations away from organizations making a difference. The public wants to help those on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, be an educated donor, and make sure your money is being used for the purposes you intend.
In the years following 9/11 and through today, lists of the worst charities include many claiming to help firefighters and police officers. One list still had four fire and police charities in its top 20 of charities to avoid.
I take this personally because I am a firefighter and the executive director of a 501(C)3 that has long helped the families of fallen firefighters. On September 12, 2001, I was privileged to lead a team of people to New York and serve with members of the FDNY and assist the families of the fallen. All these years later we are still working closely with and help fund FDNY’s Counseling Services Unit. We were far from alone in providing much needed help in New York. But as I looked at organizations claiming to provide support, and were not providing any meaningful assistance, I realized there were important lessons about giving that everyone should learn.
Today, many of us not only want to help the firefighters and police officers on the pandemic front lines, but also the doctors, nurses and others who are putting themselves in harm’s way to keep us safe. I encourage you to be generous, but to also make smart choices about who you trust with your money.
It is important to do your homework and become an informed donor to ensure your money is used wisely. A good place to start is Charity Navigator’s website www.charitynavigator.org. Charity Navigator evaluates U.S. charitable organizations. It does not accept donations or advertising from any of the charities it evaluates.