Watching the coverage of the natural disasters like Hurricane Harvey in Houston and Hurricane Irma in Florida is gut wrenching. Being in news for two decades, I’ve seen so much tragedy and despair and it never gets any easier to see or emotionally cope with. Aside from prayers, many people want to do more to help those impacted.

And while it’s great to have a giving heart, you also have to be smart to make sure your donations really make a difference. Here’s a few ways to do that.

Donate to reputable organizations with long histories of helping after natural disasters.

There are a handful of disaster relief organizations that are the first responders, so to speak, in tragedies like this. You can feel safe giving your money to these organizations because you know their history and their results. These include The Red Cross, The Salvation Army and The United Way. You can also look for temporary organizations set up by reputable companies and officials.

What you want to avoid is groups that pop up quickly that you’ve never heard of. Even if you see a heart breaking plea on social media. If you’ve never heard of them or an organization they’re affiliated with, be wary.

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The best thing to donate is money.

Many people want to donate things like blankets. But officials say because needs change and because of the lack of space to store large donations of items, the best thing is to donate money to the reputable organizations mentioned above. They can put that money to use when, where and how it’s needed as the situation changes.

You can help more than people.

There are obviously thousands of people and their loved ones impacted by this tragedy. And those loved ones include pets. Often times, pets are lost or abandoned during evacuations. And those who do make it to dry ground with their owners may not be allowed in shelters or hotels.

You can donate to The Humane Society of the United States which often assists state and local organizations during and after disasters.

You can help even if you don’t have any money.

In disasters like this, blood banks can be stretched thin. A free and easy thing you can do is give blood in your community. And right now it’s desperately needed.

According to the American Association of Blood Banks, disasters such as Harvey and Irma “…are impacting the [entire] nation’s blood supply. The AABB is urging eligible donors across America, especially those with type O-positive blood, to make and keep donation appointments as soon as possible.”

Click here to find a donation location near you.

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