When a natural disaster strikes, your first instinct is probably to give as quickly as possible. You hear a lot of emotional appeals, and there’s a temptation to make donations to the first charities you hear from instead of taking a little time to develop a plan. To help ensure that your gift really benefits disaster victims, choose charities that are in a good position to help and who will spend your money wisely.

Be sure you’re doing the most good with your money.

Here’s a short list of suggestions from Charity Navigator to help you make informed decisions in response to disasters.

Give to an established charity:

Look for charities with a strong record of dealing with this type of disaster. Avoid any charity created especially for a specific disaster. If you prefer to give to a new charity, be certain it is a registered public charity with 501(c)(3) status.

Designate your gift:

If you want your money to aid victims of a specific disaster, designate your gift for that purpose. Most charities that accept online donations have a space you can check to target how your contribution will be spent. If you send a check, indicate your preference on the memo line.

Avoid telemarketers:

Don’t be pressured into making donations over the phone, and never give your credit card information to a phone solicitor. Request written information on the charity and then do your own research. If you still want to give, send a check or use the charity’s website to ensure they get 100% of your donation.

Follow up:

For major disasters, aid may be required for months or even years. After your initial donation, follow up with the charity to see how your money was used and if ongoing help is needed.

Give online:

Giving online provides charities with immediate access to funds.

Consult online resources:

If you have questions about a charity, several online resources offer reliable information. These include GuideStar®, the Better Business Bureau®, Charity Navigator, and the American Institute of Philanthropy.