The humanitarian crisis in Ukraine is heart-wrenching and complex. In many respects, it’s similar to a natural disaster, but the challenges it will pose are both immediate and also likely to extend long into the future.

Philanthropists, especially those with private foundations, can be of great help here. Not only can they respond rapidly when a crisis occurs, but they can also take a longer view to understand the full scope of the problems, pinpoint where they can make the greatest impact, and determine how to allocate their resources most effectively to boost established relief efforts or spawn new ones.

What follows are some insights to help your charitable clients assist Ukraine now and in the difficult years ahead.

Immediate Help
The circumstances in Ukraine are fluid. The conflict will likely escalate in both scale and urgency, and it’s unknown how much help will be required. The following are broad types of humanitarian aid sought by people in urgent need:

• Health and medical support;
• Shelter, water, food, sanitation, hygiene and other essentials;
• Clothing and nonfood items;
• Time-critical support for both internally displaced and refugee populations;
• Protection for people in conflict zones;
• Special services for the elderly, disabled, ill, impoverished or other vulnerable people; and
• The replacement of suspended education and income.

Cash donations are the most effective way for donors and private foundations to provide such support. Such donations give charitable agencies the most flexibility to direct funds to the areas of greatest need. (Clothing and medical supplies require shipping, receipt and management of goods and materials, creating logistical problems that may actually hinder response efforts.)

In times of emergency, the Internal Revenue Service allows private foundations special funding opportunities: Beyond the usual accepted procedure of making grants to charities, foundations can make grants directly to individuals and families as well without obtaining prior IRS approval.

Screening Charities
It’s easy to find an online list of nonprofit organizations supporting Ukraine relief efforts. Before your clients support any charity or cause, though, you should counsel them to ask the following:

• Is the organization well-established and reputable? What is its history?
• Does it have a clear mission?
• Does it meet a vital need?
• How sound is its stated approach?
• Are its values congruent with the client’s?
• Are its services and programs unique?
• Who sits on the organization’s board?
• Does it achieve substantial results?

Additionally, clients should check the organization’s rating from one or more “watchdog” sites that apply a uniform set of standards to analyze and grade the finances and programmatic quality of nonprofits. Some of the more well-known watchdog sites are Give Well, Charity Navigator, the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance and CharityWatch.

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