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May 19, 2021, 11:35 a.m. EDT

How to help India as the country sets a new COVID-19 death record

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Leslie Albrecht

India’s COVID-19 crisis set a grim new record this week, with the country reporting 4,529 deaths , the highest number of fatalities in a single day that any country has seen during the course of the pandemic.

However, those tallies are thought to be vastly undercounted .

In total, India was second worldwide behind the U.S. with 25.4 million cases as of Wednesday and third with 283.248 deaths, while Brazil was third in cases with 15.7 million and second in deaths with 439,050.

“Right now, we need global solidarity for regional support with more medical equipment, support for prevention and urgent access to vaccines,” said Alexander Matheou, Asia Pacific Director for the Red Cross, in a statement.

The world is rushing to help.

Prominent Indian-American business leaders are among the many who have responded to the crisis: Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google /zigman2/quotes/202490156/composite GOOGL -1.34% parent company Alphabet, said his company would provide $18 million, including cash assistance to cover everyday expenses for people affected by India’s COVID-19 surge.

Pichai and several other Indian-American CEOs, including Punit Renjen of Deloitte, Arvind Krishna of IBM /zigman2/quotes/203856914/composite IBM -1.70% ; Raj Subramaniam of FedEx /zigman2/quotes/203047719/composite FDX -0.78% ; and Shantanu Narayen of Adobe Systems /zigman2/quotes/200389143/composite ADBE +2.58% are part of an international task force that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce launched this month to coordinate a response to the crisis with the American and Indian governments.

Billionaire Vinod Khosla, co-founder of Sun Microsystems, put up $10 million to match donations to the India-based nonprofit GiveIndia for oxygen equipment. “There is large and very urgent needs & a day’s delay costs lives,” Khosla said on Twitter .

Twitter /zigman2/quotes/203180645/composite TWTR +0.23% co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey pitched in $15 million to be divided among three nonprofits: CARE , Sewa International and Association for India’s Development .

But even people who can only spare a few dollars can make a difference, of course. Here’s how to make sure your money goes as far as it can.

Donate safely

The crowdfunding site GoFundMe has a list of questions to ask before donating , and the site also encourages people to message the fundraiser’s organizer directly to ask for more information.

The company also has a “Trust and Safety” team that monitors fundraisers responding to sudden crises; the team is reviewing all fundraisers related to India’s COVID-19 surge “to ensure all donations are safely routed to the correct beneficiaries,” a spokeswoman told MarketWatch.

GoFundMe has set up a list of verified fundraisers to help people in India . All money donated to GoFundMe is backed by a guarantee, and donors get refunds if their money doesn’t end up with the intended recipient, spokeswoman Rachel Hollis noted.

“GoFundMe’s top priority is to balance speed and safety and ensure funds arrive as quickly as possible, and into the hands of those in need,” Hollis said.

On Facebook /zigman2/quotes/205064656/composite FB -2.04% , where individuals can post requests for help or solicit donations for nonprofits, the platform uses “a proactive review process to identify and remove potentially fraudulent fundraisers,” said Facebook Charitable Giving spokeswoman Uzma Saeed. “In addition to multiple fraud checks designed to safeguard against bad actors, we deliver donations only to vetted charities that are 501(c)(3)’s in good standing, that go through a rigorous on-boarding process,” she added.

Facebook investigates any fundraiser that a user reports as potentially fraudulent (which they can do here ), and people who create fundraisers for nonprofits on Facebook or Instagram never have direct access to the money, she said.

Highly-rated charities working in India

The charity-rating sites Charity Navigator and CharityWatch both suggest the following highly-rated charities working to provide COVID-19 relief in India:

CARE.org , an international nonprofit with offices in Delhi, is setting up COVID-19 care facilities and providing medical supplies. Direct Relief is delivering oxygen concentrators and power adaptors. Doctors without Borders USA is caring for patients in field hospitals in Mumbai. International Medical Corps is working with organizations in India to provide PPE and fight vaccine misinformation. Lutheran World Relief is working with local partners to deliver equipment including ventilators and pulse oximeters to hospitals. MAP International is sending medicines and supplies. Oxfam is providing medical equipment as well as food and hygiene kits, especially in the hard-hit state of Maharashtra. Project Hope is distributing supplies and training health workers, and donations made until May 31 will be matched 1:1. Save the Children says a $50 donation can provide a first-aid kit to a frontline health worker, and $150 “can provide two months of nutritious food for a family in crisis.” UNICEF is providing oxygen systems to hospitals and testing machines.

Quickly verify that a nonprofit is legit

Before you click the donate button for a nonprofit, double check that you’re giving to the right group. Sometimes groups have sound-alike names, but aren’t actually related to the cause in their name.

Last summer, donors funneled more than $4 million to the Black Lives Matter Foundation, a group that has no affiliation with the Black Lives Matter social justice movement.

To make sure an organization is a legitimate nonprofit that’s in good standing with authorities, punch the group’s Employee Identification Number into the IRS charity lookup tool . This number should be listed on the group’s website. All legitimate charities have an EIN, and no two are the same.

To dig a little deeper, look up the group on the state attorney general’s website in the state where the organization is based. Sometimes local authorities catch wind of fraud before the feds, and if the group has had its nonprofit status revoked, that information would usually be listed.

If you’re donating to a group that’s not a registered nonprofit, Stacey Steele, spokeswoman for Charity Navigator, recommends only supporting “those organizations vetted or publicly supported by official sources, e.g. government offices in the country facing the crisis.”

Choose a well-rated charity

After making sure the group that you’re donating to is legit, take the time to pick out an effective organization.

“If one charity can vaccinate 10 people with your donation while another charity can only vaccinate two, it’s easy to understand how taking a little extra time to do your research before giving will allow you to maximize your impact,” said Laurie Styron, executive director of CharityWatch.

CharityWatch recommends groups that spend at least 75% of their operating budget on program services, and spend no more than $25 to raise $100. Rating site Charity Navigator assesses organizations on factors including financial health and governance practices.

Fight ‘donor fatigue’

More than a year into a global pandemic that has brought death, illness, job loss and hunger, nonprofits have been relying on donors to help ease people’s suffering.

Some worry that donors’ willingness to open their wallets could wane just as needs in India and elsewhere are increasing.

“For the past 15 months, essentially, the mantra has been give more, give more, give more, give more,” Regine Webster, vice president at the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, told the Chronicle of Philanthropy . “Regrettably, if the same message is being presented for 400 days in a row, it ultimately makes the case more challenging.”

Don’t fall for ‘fake victims’

Emotions are high and the need is urgent, two reasons that it’s important for well-meaning donors to proceed with caution before throwing money at whatever tragic story crosses their social media feed, said experts at Charity Navigator and CharityWatch.

Appeals on crowdfunding sites may include devastating personal stories, but sometimes they’re not true.

“Scammers are particularly active during a crisis like this because it’s easy to play into people’s emotions and create a sense of urgency that prevents the average person from asking too many questions before donating,” Styron said.

Her organization’s list of tips for donors who want to help the situation in India includes the warning: “Social media will include many fake victims.”

See also: Most people fail to take these 3 basic steps before they donate to charity

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