Are you prepared to help others in the most effective and efficient way possible? When disasters strike, many people’s first impulse is to collect food or clothing; it is not unusual for community and local groups to collect thousands of pounds of material – typically used clothing, canned food and bottled water – realizing only afterward that they do not know whether it’s actually needed, how they will transport it or who will distribute it.
To ensure that your money is doing the good you intended you have to look past aid agency advertising, name recognition, and "happy stories", and instead look for evidence that the aid agency is following best practices and constantly improving their organization.
Reflecting on the debate over disaster/poverty tourism a couple of weeks back some bloggers, such as Tales from the Hood and Pepy Tours, have argued that there is a benefit, if done right, of donors visiting aid recipients. And, if done right, I agree. One of the common complaints after the tsunami was that donors did not come and check whether aid work was done well or learn about the real needs of aid recipients. Donors do need to have a greater understanding of what does and does not work in aid as well as common problems associated with aid. Properly structured visits can help them become better donors.