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Disaster Relief: How Charities Must Document Relief Activities

What kind of records must a charity maintain to document its relief activities?

An organization must maintain adequate records that show the amounts paid, the purpose of the payments, and information to establish that distributions were made to meet charitable purposes and victims’ needs.  Documentation should include:

  • a complete description of the assistance
  • cost of the assistance
  • the purpose for which the assistance was given
  • the charity's objective criteria for disbursing assistance under each program
  • how the recipients were selected
  • the name, address, and amount distributed to each recipient (but see below regarding short-term emergency assistance)
  • any relationship between the recipient and officers, directors, or key employees of or substantial contributors to the organization
  • the composition of the selection committee approving assistance

A charitable organization that is distributing short-term emergency assistance should maintain the documentation noted above except for records of the name, address, and amount distributed to each recipient.  Instead, organizations providing short-term emergency assistance should maintain records that describe the date, place, and estimated number of victims assisted.  Examples of such short-term emergency aid would include blankets, hot meals, crisis shelter, electric fans, coats, hats, and gloves.