One of the best ways to support people displaced by the floods caused by Tropical Storm Harvey is to donate to local groups. But deciding how to support flood victims isn’t just a matter of where to donate, but how.
At least a few charities employ Amazon’s Wish List feature to accept donations. You pick what you’d like to buy, pay Amazon, and the company ships the good directly to the charity. In other cases, items from the wish list will go to organizations in other cities trying to handle the influx of Houston’s displaced people—and pets—seeking refuge. You can, for example, buy diapers for the San Antonio-based Texas Diaper Bank. The Dallas-based animal welfare group SPCA of Texas, meanwhile, uses its wish lists to solicit donations for everything from kitty litter to doggy toys .
It’s an appealing idea. Instead of wondering where your dollars go, you know exactly what they’re paying for. But one thing to consider is when the groups you’re donating to will actually receive the items you order for them. The flooding forced Amazon to close its fulfillment centers in the Houston area, which means it could take some time for items to actually reach charities in the immediate vicinity. Amazon is making an exception for items ordered from the Red Cross’s wish list, however.
“Our fulfillment teams in northern and central Texas are currently fulfilling wish-list donations purchased by customers and Amazon is transporting the needed items to Red Cross distribution centers,” an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement. “To further support relief efforts, Amazon and Whole Foods Market will match cash donations made via Amazon—up to $1 million—to the American Red Cross Hurricane Harvey Relief efforts.”
But there are downsides to wish list donations besides the potential delay of delivery. Charities are often better served by monetary donations rather than specific items, because organizations can get bulk discounts when they order themselves. And while it might not be as gratifying to pay for administrative staff salaries as it is to buy a box of diapers for a family that really needs it, those salaries keep the aid system working. Charity Navigator, an organization that evaluates and ranks charities, recommends donating to the Houston Food Bank, Food Bank of Corpus Christi, Houston Humane Society, Houston SPCA, or the San Antonio Humane Society for the greatest impact.
But if you’d still prefer to buy something from a wish list, your purchases won’t be in vain. “If organizations are asking for specific goods, then Amazon Wish Lists can be a direct way to get the resources to those who need them most, with experts in the community who can assist in providing said resources,” says Sara Nason, a spokesperson for Charity Navigator.
It make take some time for your donations to arrive, but remember that these communities impacted by Tropical Storm Harvey will need support for months and years to come.