Verify: 5 presidents want you to donate—to what?

If you watched a football game this weekend it was hard to miss the fundraising call -- a TV ad from former American presidents. They want you to donate to something called the One America Appeal. We asked our Verify team to explain where your money would

VERIFY – YOU’VE GOT QUESTIONS, WE’LL FIND ANSWERS

A 9NEWS project to make sure what you’ve heard is true, accurate, verified. Want us to verify something for you? Email verify@9news.com

THE QUESTION

Along with the launch of the NFL regular season, came a public service announcement for “One America Appeal,” which was started by all five living former American Presidents.

The leaders are coming together to help citizens of Texas and Florida recover and rebuild after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

People are encouraged to support the recovery efforts with monetary donations through the fund-raising effort’s website.

Since it’s a new charity effort, many people want to know where the money goes. The 9News Verify team looked into it to help you decide if you’d like to give to this group—or somewhere else.

WHAT WE FOUND

According to the One America Appeal’s website, all donations will go to helping victims of Hurricane Harvey and Irma through the:

  • Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund
  • Rebuild Texas Fund
  • Florida Disaster Fund

The website said money collected through One America Appeal will go into a special account at the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library Foundation, a tax-exempt organization, and promises that 100 percent of the money donated will go to hurricane victims.

All money collected is “immediately” distributed to the funds, according to the website, though some of the details of how much will go to which charity are still being finalized.

As far as what percentage of your donation will go to the three charities, spokesman for George H. W. Bush Jim McGrath said a decision will be made this week once damage assessments from Hurricane Irma are more definitive.

“We want money in the hands of victims as quickly as possible,” McGrath said.

All three of the partner charities have promised not to take a cut of the money as overhead, but to pass along 100 percent of what they collect.

DONATION RECIPIENT #1: HURRICANE HARVEY RELIEF FUND

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Harris County Judge Ed Emmett established the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund to accept flood relief donations from citizens and companies to help victims.

According to the fund’s webpage, the fund is housed at the Greater Houston Community Foundation, a public charitable foundation. The foundation also administered the Bush Clinton Katrina Fund, The Hurricane Ike Recovery Fund and the Storm Relief Fund of 2016.

The Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund is focused on relief efforts in the Harris County and Houston areas for immediate and long term needs.

According to a release, the Greater Houston Community Foundation “is prepared to administer the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund without charging any fees so that 100% of donations go to immediate and long term relief efforts.”

According to the Greater Houston Community Foundation, a fund advisory committee ensures a process to determine unmet needs. The donations will support:

  • relief efforts to aid the victims of the flooding and other weather
  • shelter and temporary housing needs
  • food and supplies
  • healthcare
  • transportation
  • child care and facility needs of child care and social service agencies

According to the foundation, as of Sept. 1, the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund has received $11.5 million in donations and $17.5 million in commitments.

DONATION RECIPIENT #2: REBUILD TEXAS FUND

The Rebuild Texas Fund supports all Texas communities affected by Hurricane Harvey.

According to the fund’s website, as of Monday, Sept. 11, it raised a total of $44 million of its $100 million goal.

The money will be used for long-term recovery and rebuilding, as well as immediate relief efforts in four areas:

  • health and housing
  • schools and child care
  • workforce and transportation
  • rebuilding small businesses

The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation collaborated with the OneStar Foundation to form the relief fund.

“All donated funds go 100 percent to relief, recovery, and rebuild efforts. Administrative costs and people costs are covered by the OneStar Foundation and by the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation,” according to the website. PayPal is waiving processing fees for donations to the fund.

On Sept. 1, Michael and Susan Dell launched the fund with $18 million, and between Sept. 1 and 4, contributing $1 for every $2 raised.

To decide how the money is spent, the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation organized a team to manage the fund and will contact disaster relief, recovery and rebuilding experts.

DONATION RECIPIENT #3: FLORIDA DISASTER FUND

The Florida Disaster Fund is the state's official disaster relief fund, which assists its communities in responding and recovering to emergencies or disasters.

According to the fund’s webpage, there are no overhead costs - 100 percent of the funds raised go toward disaster-related needs.

The Florida Disaster Fund distributes funds to service organizations that serve people within the respective communities.

The fund is run by Volunteer Florida, an organization with a history of paying out for hurricanes in Florida, including Hurricane Hermine and Hurricane Matthew in 2016. The group also responded to the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, according to the 2016 Annual Report. It also posts its financial data online.

Volunteer Florida gives money to a variety of partner charities at the local level in the state-- including churches, humanitarian groups, and other disaster responders. The list includes the Salvation Army, United Way, Lutheran Services Florida, Samaritan’s Purse, Convoy of Hope, Goodwill and Catholic Charities USA, just to name a few.

The organization’s disaster response efforts include:

  • mobile kitchens
  • sheltering residents
  • managing repair crews
  • serving on personal damage assessment teams
  • providing home and business construction and repairs
  • helping families with disaster case management and long-term recovery plans.

According to the organization’s website, Volunteer Florida administers $31.7 million in federal, state, and local funding for service and volunteer programs in the state.

THE BOTTOM LINE

One America Appeal is essentially a superfund for the two hurricanes and an easy way to give to victims of both - with a promise the superfund will not take a cut.

Eventually people will get paid when the funding goes out as grants to each charity doing work on the ground.

If you give to this effort, you are trusting that superfund structure to send the money to the place that will by and large do the most good.

If that doesn’t sound specific enough for you, there are plenty of other ways to help. Charity Navigator, a group that examines financial documents to evaluate charities, compiled lists of highly-rated organizations responding in the aftermath of both Hurricane Harvey and Irma as well as providing assistance to affected communities.

As always, if you want your money to go to a particular effort (like hurricane relief) that a charity is working on, be sure to include the specific purpose in your donation.

© 2017 KUSA-TV


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