The first thing I do each morning these days is check the Daily Beast and Huffington Post for news about Japan. The stories break my heart. I come from a family that has survived earthquakes. My grandmother's sister used to tell me stories about the 1906 earthquake -- how scared and confused she and the other children were, how the family lost their business and their home, how they left San Francisco to start over in West Oakland. I can't imagine what families must be experiencing today in Japan.
What I do know is that I want to help, and others here in the United States want to help, through charitable donations.
Taxgirl has posted some things to keep in mind when making charitable gifts for disaster relief in Japan such as:
Do your homework. Check out the credentials of a potential donee/charitable organization before you make a donation. Charity Navigator is a great site to gather information (that link takes you directly to the Japanese earthquake relief part of the site). You can also confirm charitable status through the IRS web site – remember that some organizations (like churches) may not be listed, so ask the organization for more information if you’re not sure.
Remember the rules. The rules for charitable giving still apply, even in a disaster of this magnitude. That means that only contributions to domestic tax-exempt charitable organizations are deductible. However, those that provide assistance to individuals in foreign countries qualify for charitable deductions (think Red Cross, etc.) so long as they otherwise meet the rules as domestic tax-exempt charities. Again, check with the IRS – or ask to see the organization’s credentials.
Private foundations wanting to make grants for Japanese earthquake relief must be careful to comply with the rules governing cross-border grant-making. The Council on Foundations has posted resources for grant-makers.
Some additional resources for those who want to donate:
Chronicle of Philanthropy (Responses from Charities to the Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami)
Silicon Valley Community Foundation (Support Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Efforts)