If you're like most Americans, you've been watching the Hurricane Harvey coverage, thanking your lucky stars you don't live in its path. However, for millions, their lives have just been turned upside down, and the problems haven't stopped. You want to do something. But what? Here are 10 ways you and your business can help.

1. Cash. Cold hard cash.

Jennifer Smith Thames, a victim of last year's horrible flooding in Louisiana wrote a Facebook post that explained why cash is the best idea:

PSA: For all of those across the country, watching the catastrophic events in TX, and wanting to know what they can do to help, I'm going to say what they'll feel uncomfortable saying.

They'll need money. They just will. Work will be disrupted, insurance will be slow to pay, and probably underpay. Even if they get plenty of insurance money eventually, they'll need money right away.

Less than a week after the flood last year, I was having to buy clothes for our family, replacing ALL of our prescriptions at one time, and buying random other things. We were blessed in that [my husband] Matt continued to get paid with no disruption. We were in the minority.

2. Donate to a charity that is on the ground.

The American Red Cross is the preferred emergency responder for the U.S. government, but it is not the only one. Many religions have organized charities that are on the ground and ready to go, such as Catholic Charities, LDS Humanitarian Services, and the Baptist Global Response. Other organizations, such as All Hands, Global Giving, and Americares, are prepped and ready to go. If you can, check with local organizations such as hospitals, churches, and animal shelters to see if you can help them directly.

3. Keep paying your affected employees.

If you have offices or employees in the path of the Hurricane, they won't be working and you won't be open. While having no money coming in can make it very difficult to pay employees--especially when they aren't working--do your best to keep paying. If it's just not financially tenable, consider asking your employees from different offices to donate part of their paycheck to their co-workers who have not only suffered great damage to their homes but now don't have a job to go to.

4. Give time off to help.

If your business wasn't directly affected but you live close enough to help out, give your employees extra days off to go help out. The physical labor required to clean up after massive flooding is considerable. Harvey's victims can use every person that can rip down drywall and carry out mud-filled sofas. (Naturally, do not require your employees to engage in physically demanding labor.)

5. Donate physical goods--but the right kind.

When disaster strikes, people love to haul out their old clothes and ship them off, but that's not actually what is needed. Check with a local charity before you start gathering things that are not needed and wasting time, money, and effort that could be better spent elsewhere. People like to give things, but often it's better to hold a fundraiser and send the money. Do check, though, and ask about food, water, hygiene supplies, diapers, formula, and other things that can be hard to come by. Ask first and then gather.

6. Organize a blood drive.

There is always a need for blood. They may or may not need a large influx after Harvey, so ask if there is a need, or if you should schedule a blood drive later on in the year. Remember, while Hurricanes are visible disasters, there are local disasters all the time in the form of accidents and illnesses, and blood literally saves lives year round.

7. Offer free Wi-Fi or free charging.

If you're local and your business is okay while others are not, take this idea from Life Hacker and let people use your Wi-Fi and power to charge their devices. It may seem like a small thing, but we're an internet dependent society, and having the ability to charge your smartphone can really change your day.

8. Shop at WalMart.

OK, admittedly this sounds weird, but Walmart has a disaster team and is often first on the scene with needed supplies. The company's vast network of warehouses and trucks allows it to bring in things that other charities just can't match. So, support it as it supports the victims.

9. Make disaster relief a part of your company's mission.

This disaster is making headlines, as it well should, but charities help in quiet ways all year. Instead of just scheduling a fundraiser for Harvey, start an annual fundraiser. There's never going to be a point where there are no more natural disasters, so be proactive.

Published on: Aug 28, 2017