In less than 24 hours, The One Fund Boston created to aid victims of Monday’s Marathon bombings raised more than $4 million. John Hancock kicked off the giving with a $1 million check, and thousands of others donors, big and small, have responded generously. Now it’s important that the contributions — and the rest of the millions of dollars flowing into Boston — be well spent.
The fund, which is intended to be the main charitable vehicle for disaster relief and recovery, is properly focused on the needs of the 176 survivors and their families. While health insurance will likely pay most medical costs, many survivors lost limbs in the attack and face a long and expensive recovery. Some may need to add wheelchair ramps to their homes, for instance. The overall level of need seems impossible to estimate, and the fund’s organizers have not set a target.
With the eyes of the world on Boston, though, many other charities have also been soliciting donations. Most of them are probably good causes. But authorities are warning donors not to fall victim to the fraudulent charities that inevitably emerge to exploit tragedies. According to Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office, 125 website domain names referring to the explosions were registered within an hour of the bombing. Donors should take care that they are giving to responsible charities; Coakley’s office suggests checking with the Better Business Bureau or charitynavigator.org.
In addition to avoiding scams, it will also be crucial for the city to learn from the experiences of New York City after 9/11 and New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Both cities struggled to coordinate charitable efforts, and later investigations showed some donations went to waste. Boston’s decision to consult with Kenneth Feinberg, the lawyer who administered the 9/11 victims’ fund, is a good sign.
Once the victims’ needs are met, The One Fund Boston should also be ready to expand its mission. Marathon Day holds a special place in Boston’s civic culture. More than any other time on the calendar, it’s a day when the whole city opens its doors to the world, and when Bostonians come out to support friends, neighbors, and total strangers as they toil over 26.2 miles. Those values of opennness and mutual support came under attack on Monday, and reinforcing them — through parks, athletics, or public events — would be a fitting way to honor donors’ generosity.