Hurricanes Harvey and Irma are wreaking devastation from Texas to Florida to Puerto Rico, and beyond. Generous people across the country are doing what they can to help their neighbors in need. If you’re thinking about donating money to a charity, here’s how to make sure your dollars go to the causes you support.

Donate to charities you know and trust and that have a proven track record.

Avoid charities that seem to have sprung up overnight in connection with current events. Some are scams. And even if they mean well, charities formed quickly may not have the infrastructure to be effective. 

Check out the charity with the Better Business Bureau's (BBB) Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, or GuideStar. These organizations provide lists of charities they have screened that are raising funds for specific causes, like Hurricane Harvey or Irma relief assistance.

Don’t assume that charity messages posted on social media are legitimate. Research the organization yourself online. Search the organization name and words like “scam.”

Designate the disaster. Charities may give the option to designate your giving to a specific relief effort. That way, you can ensure your funds are going to help hurricane victims, rather than a general fund.

Give directly rather than through a paid fundraiser. Professional fundraisers get a percentage of your donation, sometimes 50 percent or more.

When texting to donate, confirm the number with the source before you donate. The charge will show up on your mobile phone bill, but donations are not immediate.

Find out if the charity or fundraiser must be registered in your state by contacting the National Association of State Charity Officials.

Check out the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) volunteer and donation page. It outlines the best ways you can help people and communities who are impacted by a disaster.

The FTC has more information about charity scams.

How to verify a hurricane relief charity