How to Choose a Charity to Help Japan

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Our family is emotionally connected to Japan.

For about eight years we have been supporting missionaries in Japan.

Three years ago, we were in Sendai, Japan and absolutely loved the hospitality of the Japanese. 

Needless to say, we’ve been (like so many of you) shocked by the tragedy that is gripping the country.  And, like many of you, we want to help.

I’ve found this Google page to be very helpful page for keeping up with all of the events surrounding the Japan crisis.

However, the question is: where should we give?

Side Note About Disaster Relief Charities

Unfortunately, this is a time when scammers come out. (Sorry, I do hate to bring it up).  I would highly recommend giving only through reputable organizations.  Moreover, I would personally ignore anyone who approaches you to solicit a donation.  Instead, get the information for the charity that they (claim to) represent, and if you want to make a donation, be sure you do it through their official registered channels.  Of course, there will be exceptions to this, but just consider this a time to be a little cautious.

The situation with Japan makes me think that it would be advisable to do your homework before tragedy strikes so you can be prepared with how to respond. 

Incentivized Giving

Some people like / need an incentive to give.

They might give to an organizations that will offer you some bonus air miles for giving.  They might buy a T-shirt with proceeds going to help people in Japan.

Personally, I’m thankful for people/organizations that offer those service.  The reason is that they might reach people who wouldn’t be giving anything anyway.  If John Doe needs to buy a T-shirt in order to help him give, then so be it.

However, that’s obviously not the best way to give because more of what you spend goes towards the product that is being used to raise the funds.

Disaster/ Relief Organizations

There are many organizations that fall into this category.  Some of the biggest ones that come to mind include the Red Cross and Unicef. 

The good thing about these organizations is that they have the personnel, access, experience, and resources to make a real difference on the the ground.

Moreover, how they spend their money is on public record.

One of the first questions that people often ask charities is – how much of every dollar goes to the ‘actual’ cause?  In fact, I know many, many people who make this number their single determining factor.

However, I think the question needs to be – how effective is the organization?

Organization A might give 92% of their funds to the cause.  However, because they lack the resources for proper organization of their effort on the ground, that 92% is only 70% effective.

Organization B might give 80% of their funds to the cause.  However, they run a well oiled machine and have people stationed at all the right places.  They’ve done the proper analysis to know where they best ought to help and they respond appropriately.  Their 80% is 80% effective.

If you click here, you can make an online donation to Japanese Red Cross Society, Unicef, Save the Children, or International Medical Corps.

If you make a $5 donation through Living Social, they will match your donation.

Christian Disaster / Relief Organizations

Call me old school, but I prefer to donate through Christian organizations.  I think that our giving is a reflection of our faith, and assistance should be clearly a response to our call as Christians.

Thus, I personally don’t usually make donations to organizations like Red Cross and Unicef. (Please don’t hear me saying I think it is bad for you to give money to these organizations – they are good charities.)

For the last few years, the majority of my helping the poor/ disaster relief money has gone to Healing Hands International.  The reason is that I believe in the work they are doing. 

Of course, you should know that Healing Hands International is associated with the churches of Christ.  As a member of the churches of Christ, I am obviously introduced to aid organizations within that fellowship.  If you know of a good Christian organization that is providing assistance in Japan, please let us know about that organization in the comments. 

On the Ground Coordination by Local Missionaries / Christians

I’m part of a Facebook group of people who are trying to coordinate and organize efforts in Japan.  The group administrators are missionaries who are currently in Japan or have recently worked there. 

In this case, their on the ground knowledge is invaluable.  The group is working with two churches (one in the US and one in Canada) to accept donations. 

However, what is lacking is disaster management experience.  I like the fact that these missionaries and Christian disaster relief organizations are working together to find the best way to minister to the people of Japan.

What charity do you use/recommend when helping during disasters like the one in Japan?


  1. says

    I’m a big advocate of giving to organizations that have a presence there, on the ground, in Japan, rather than giving to organizations that “partner” with other organizations in Japan. This way your money is used more directly. (I help run a charity that ‘partners’ with another charity overseas, and I recently wrote a post about all the inefficiencies that arise from that … we could be much more effective if we were there ourselves.)

    For that reason, I advocate giving to larger charities like the Red Cross, Japanese Red Cross, or Doctors without Borders.

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