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The Do's and Don'ts of Helping Ukrainian Refugees: How to Make Sure Your Donation Matters

Five Recommended Non-Profit Organizations Helping Ukrainian Refugees

Europe is in the midst of its biggest refugee crisis since World War II with over 1.5 million Ukrainians fleeing their country in the ten days since the Russian invasion. People around the world have looked on in horror as mothers and children have flooded out of the country with only what they can carry in their arms. In the face of the shocking stories and images being broadcast worldwide, many people are eager to help the innocent people whose lives have been devastated by the invasion and destruction of their country.

As with any disaster, however, it's not always easy to know how best to help. Any crisis brings out scammers looking to profit from others' generosity, and well-meaning individuals frequently set up small campaigns without knowing what resources are needed most or having much knowledge of the groups they are encouraging others to support. Moreover, viral social media posts by people without experience working with refugees or those in conflict zones can end up funneling large amounts of donations in ineffective ways, which may only end up helping small numbers of those in need or even benefitting scammers taking advantage of the situation.

Unless you are physically close to those in need, such as near a border where refugees are crossing, it is not recommended that donors send physical items like food, clothing, or toys or run collection drives for such items. Along with being very expensive to ship, especially overseas, such donations take tremendous staff time to sort, clean, store, and distribute which humanitarian aid organizations do not have the capacity to manage during emergencies. Even during domestic emergencies, the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) asserts that such physical donations, especially clothing, are one of the worst things to donate during a crisis; often such donations will only pile up in warehouses or even end up in landfills. If you’ve already collected such physical donations, aid organizations recommend donating them locally where they are far more likely to be used.

If you are part of a community organization that wants to help Ukrainian refugees, while it's satisfying to collect physical donations, humanitarian aid organizations strongly advise against it for all of the reasons above. Additionally, if you are located far from the conflict zone, the shipping costs of sending such physical donations abroad is often exorbitant; money that could be much better spent as a donation directly to an aid organization working on the ground that can help refugees immediately. Rather than collecting physical donations, choose a reputable aid organization, such as one of those featured below, and ask for monetary donations. To make such giving more interactive and fulfilling for your organization's members, you can organize events such as bake sales, car washes, or garage sales with the proceeds going to the aid organization you are supporting.

If you or your community organization is ready to donate, there are fortunately several reputable humanitarian aid organizations with long-time experience working in Ukraine and helping refugees. Most importantly, these organizations are already on the ground and have the logistical capacity to help those in need right now. Below, we've highlighted five such non-profit organizations, each with a stellar reputation and extensive experience helping refugees with both physical needs like food, clothing and shelter, and with the psychological support required after violence and trauma. If you're able to donate, we'd urge you to consider one of these organizations, even if your contribution doesn't seem like much: one person's efforts may be small, but when we all come together, we can achieve Mighty results.

If you're looking for ways to talk to kids about the experience of becoming a refugee and why Ukrainians need our help, visit our blog post Seeking Safety in a New Land: 25 Books About Mighty Girl Refugees.

Recommended Non-Profit Organizations Helping Ukrainian Refugees

Save the Children

Founded by British social reformer and human rights champion Eglantyne Jebb over 100 years ago, Save the Children was the first global organization dedicated solely to protecting children's rights and providing what they needed to thrive. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child was based on Jebb's declaration, and since its founding Save the Children has provided everything from medical care to nutrition to educational support for over one billion children. The organization is highly rated by Charity Navigator, CharityWatch, Forbes, and more for both its efficient use of donations and the effectiveness of its programs.

As part of their emergency appeal to help the children of Ukraine, Save the Children is fundraising for immediate needs like food, water, hygiene kits, and clothing and shelter suitable for the freezing temperatures in the region. They will also be providing psychosocial support to help children deal with the trauma of the invasion and their flight from Ukraine, and cash assistance to families in need.

To donate, visit Save the Children's Ukrainian Crisis Relief Fund page.



For over 75 years, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has fought for an equitable world for every child. UNICEF USA supports their work in over 190 countries around the world. UNICEF responds to an average of 300 emergencies per year, and maintains the largest humanitarian supply warehouse in the world, capable of shipping supplies anywhere in less than 72 hours. With 88 cents of every dollar donated going directly to assistance programs, and top ratings from CharityWatch, Charity Navigator, and GlobalGiving, you'll know that your donation will be put to its best use.

In Ukraine, UNICEF has been scaling up its operations in response to the conflict. They have set up 26 "Blue Dot" safe centers at border entry points and other strategic locations in Poland, Romania, Moldova, and other countries to provide delivery of emergency services in coordination with national and local authorities in countries bordering Ukraine; each hub can support up to 5,000 people per day. They are also mobilizing health resources to ensure refugee children will have access to medical care, and delivering up to four tons of hygiene products like diapers, wipes, and disinfectants to each center at a time.

To donate, visit UNICEF's Ukraine campaign donation page


International Committee of the Red Cross

Founded in 1893, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is devoted to protecting and assisting victims of armed conflict around the world. In addition to its field operations, the ICRC is also committed to the development of international humanitarian law and ensuring that treaties like the Geneva Conventions are followed. The organization has spent years learning the dangers faced by refugees, and what they need as they flee violence and war. Their iconic emblem of a red cross on a white background — and the emblem of their partners, the red crescent — have long been a sign of safety in a dangerous world.

In Ukraine, the Red Cross has been distributing critical medical supplies, particularly ones required urgently, like insulin. They pass out food, water, and hygiene kits — up to 4,000 a day at each location — and provide war-wounded kits to hospitals treating patients with burns, gunshot wounds, and other violent trauma. They are also working to establish communications between separated family members, hoping to reunite as many people with their loved ones as possible.

To donate, visit the ICRC's Ukraine Crisis appeal.


International Rescue Committee

Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) began as an organization dedicated to assisting those escaping Nazi Germany, but it soon became clear that its efforts to help those fleeing war, violence, and disaster were needed around the globe. The IRC provides both emergency assistance and long-term aid for displaced persons; since its founding, it has operated in around 40 countries and benefited 26 million people. It pays particular attention to the needs of women and girls, who face particular dangers and challenges in refugee and resettlement camps. 87% of donations go to programs and services for the people the IRC serves.

The IRC is currently on the ground in Poland, providing food, medical care, and emergency support services to the thousands of Ukrainians who have fled across the border. It is also operating within Ukraine itself, assisting the millions of people without electrical power and access to critical supplies. IRC personnel have been identifying violations of International Humanitarian Law during the attack on Ukraine.

To donate, visit the IRC's Crisis in Ukraine appeal.


Médecins sans frontières / Doctors Without Borders

When armed conflict occurs, injury and illness is sure to follow. For over 50 years, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) or Doctors Without Borders has coordinated international humanitarian efforts to ensure that medical care is provided to those in need. Founded in Paris, France in 1971. the group of 300 volunteers responding to the aftermath of the Nigerian Civil War grew into a global network 65,000 people strong: health professionals and logistics and administrative staff who can assist with sanitation, help prevent and control outbreaks of disease, and maintain preventative health care programs, even in the midst of refugee camps.

As Russia invaded Ukraine, MSF prepared to set up emergency response centers across the country and in neighboring ones. In Ukraine, MSF is distributing kits to treat war-wounded people, and provided online training in trauma care for 30 surgeons. Teams in Poland, Moldova, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia are assessing and providing for the medical needs of refugees crossing the border.

To donate, visit MSF's Donation page.

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