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Betsy Nelson: Carefully consider aid to Japan

Our thoughts continue to be with those affected by the recent earthquake, aftershocks and tsunami in Japan. The preliminary numbers on those affected by these disasters are staggering. Japanese police estimate that the death toll from the quake and tsunami will surpass 18,000, while the World Bank reports that it could take five years to rebuild, at a cost of up to $235 billion.

With the scale of destruction and resulting needs vast, people have responded accordingly with quick and significant contributions to support relief efforts. Nearly two weeks after the devastating earthquake and tsunami, American donors have contributed more than $161 million for relief efforts, according to a recent Chronicle of Philanthropy tally.

Foundations and businesses in the region are acting swiftly to assist, including Constellation Energy Group, Citi, McCormick & Co., CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, Bank of America, IBM, Northrop Grumman, T. Rowe Price, Verizon and Wells Fargo.

In the coming weeks and months, Japan will continue to need the world’s attention. As with any disaster, it’s important to remember that raising the money may be the easy part. Responding to any crisis requires immediate, intermediate, and long-range support for victims.

We are often compelled to respond immediately — and certainly there is a need for such support. But as with all donations, contributions to disaster relief should be considered carefully. Where, when, and by whom can it be put to best use? Remember, it’s important to give but it’s equally important to give wisely.

Experts recommend that the best way to help the victims is to donate cash rather than in-kind donations like clothing and canned goods. Donors also should consider giving to organizations with a proven track record and to those with a long-standing history of relief work.

Several Baltimore-based humanitarian organizations are assisting Japan:

-Catholic Relief Services: www.crs.org

-Lutheran World Relief: www.lwr.org

-World Relief: www.worldrelief.org

-International Orthodox Christian Charities: www.iocc.org

Two years from now, the Japan earthquakes and tsunami probably won’t be a prominent topic of everyday conversation, but for those affected by the disaster the effects will still be omnipresent. Recognize that, unfortunately, giving to charities for disaster relief needs to be on all of our yearly contribution lists.

To find information about Japan relief efforts and to follow the local philanthropic response, visit, friend and follow ABAG at: www.abagrantmakers.org, www.facebook.com/ABAGrantmakers and on Twitter at @ABAGrantmakers.

Betsy Nelson, president of the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers, writes every other week for The Daily Record. She can be reached at 410-727-1205 or bnelson@abagrantmakers.org.