Simple steps to take before donating to tornado relief

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - In the coming days, you may receive phone calls, emails and text messages asking you to donate. Before you pay up, do some homework to make sure you are giving to a legitimate charity.

The American Red Cross office in Kansas City received a lot of calls following the devastating tornado in Moore, Oklahoma. Organizers recommend making a financial donation instead of going into the disaster zone.

"Lodging is very scarce right now … You're competing with the people you are trying to help if you show up," said Red Cross Spokesman Duane Hallock.   

To research a charity, you can do a quick background check on certain websites.  

Guidestar.org has a page dedicated to the tornado relief. It includes a list of recommended non-profits taking part in relief efforts. You can click on links for background information on each charity to see how it's rated for transparency and if it's registered with the IRS. You can also look at financial records and reviews.

Another website is charitynavigator.org. It also has a list of charities and ratings based on accountability and transparency.

The Wall Street Journal recommends five different organizations to consider when donating. It includes the Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief group which helps with tree removal, laundry and meal services to victims and families.   

Some organizations will also let you make a $10 by texting a number. For the Red Cross, text 90999 and then the words RED CROSS. To help the Salvation Army, text the word STORM to 80888. The local organization, Heart to Heart International will receive a $10 donation if you text 27722  and type HEART.

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