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Want to support Ukraine? What to look for when choosing a way to donate

Two people draped in Ukrainian flags embrace at a "Stand With Ukraine" rally in Times Square on Feb. 26, 2022 in New York City. (Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images)
Two people draped in Ukrainian flags embrace at a "Stand With Ukraine" rally in Times Square on Feb. 26, 2022 in New York City. (Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images)

More than 1.5 million people have fled Ukraine looking for safety as Russian troops invade the country. As the humanitarian crisis continues, you might wonder how you can help — and what to look for when choosing an organization to send donations.

How do I choose the right charity?

First, do your homework, and make sure you're donating to a legitimate organization. If a friend is organizing a bake sale or fundraising event to solicit donations for Ukraine, find out where the money is going first.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission recommends searching for the name of the charity or organization in question to learn more about how your donation will be used, how quickly it will reach people in need and whether the charity has any administrative fees.

Be wary of organizations that have seemingly popped up overnight. The FTC and other charity oversight groups say scammers like to pose as legitimate organizations during a crisis.

When researching a charity, consider including the words, "scam" or "complaint" in an online search, the FTC said. This could indicate whether others have had a positive or negative experience with that organization — and suggest whether it is legitimate.

Finally, beware of social media posts. If they include a link or phone number soliciting donations, make sure they're legitimate first, the FTC said.

Should I donate cash or stuff, like medical supplies or clothing?

Organizations like CharityWatch, which vets and researches organizations, has said sending items often creates more logistical challenges during a crisis. Groups on the ground often have a better sense of what supplies are needed and where they should go.

The International Committee of the Red Cross, which has help on the ground in Ukraine, has said evacuation routes in the country are still dangerous and unstable, creating logistical challenges for moving supplies in and out.

CharityWatch recommends donating cash over goods, because local organizations can choose how to spend the funds based on their lived experience on the ground.

Are there any notable organizations that are providing help to Ukraine now?

CharityWatch has a list of vetted organizations that it meet its own governance and transparency standards and spend at least 75% of their cash budgets on programs on the ground.

Among them are Mercy Corps, which is on the ground in Ukraine, Poland and Romania. Mercy Corps spent time in Ukraine after the 2014 humanitarian crisis in the country, and according to the group's website is sending funds to community groups.

Doctors Without Borders has also spent time in Ukraine following the 2014 humanitarian crisis and is currently sending medical supplies to the Ukrainian Ministry of Health. It will also send medical and emergency staff, according to the organization's website.

World Central Kitchen, run by chef and humanitarian Jose Andres, is cooking and serving meals to Ukrainian families fleeing the border. The group is also supporting local restaurants in eight Ukrainian cities.

This story is a production of New England News Collaborative. It was originally published by Maine Public. 

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