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The Role of State Charities Regulators in Protecting Public Trust in Charitable Responses to Disaster

Jepsen, George

The Internet and social media provide instant access to disaster news, as well as a platform for an instant response. Charitable donations can be made with the click of a mouse or the touch of an icon. Government officials trying to deal with the disaster have little or no time to prepare for the deluge of disaster-response gifts. Even local chapters of national charities with disaster-response experience may be unprepared for the latest event or unable to respond quickly to the challenges raised by those gifts. What are those challenges? Let me share a few examples. A local charity may have prepared a quick-response plan. But the limited purpose for which the charity was created may restrict the donations it can accept and distribute. Its limited purpose may not match the community’s needs, or the most urgent needs that arise in the days, months or even years following a disaster. Another example is a charity that receives a high volume of gifts over a short period of time. It may not have the experience or the infrastructure in place to develop the protocols necessary to assess community needs, or to distribute gifts responsibly and within the framework of federal and state laws governing charity operations.

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