Six days in, the wildfire on the Hawaiian island of Maui is one of the deadliest in U.S. history. The flames started on Aug. 8, and spread quickly, soon encompassing major residential areas and leaving evacuating residents plagued by spotty information and hazardous roadblocks, the Associated Press reports. The death toll has been raised to 96, but doesn’t include the thousands more unaccounted for amidst active search and rescue operations.  

“This is the largest natural disaster we’ve ever experienced,” Hawaii Gov. Josh Green said at a news conference, adding that the blaze has caused billions of dollars in damage. “It’s going to also be a natural disaster that’s going to take an incredible amount of time to recover from.”

With news outlets across the nation trained on the charred remnants of people’s homes and businesses, an outpouring of funds for disaster relief efforts has already begun. But experts tell Rolling Stone that for everyday people who are looking for ways to help Maui and the island’s residents, helping as fast as possible might mean slowing down. 

Kevin Scally is the chief relationship officer at Charity Navigator, a non-profit organization that gives donors tools and advice to give money to disaster-focused organizations securely. Scally tells Rolling Stone that Charity Navigator and other philanthropic-focused companies encourage people to do their due diligence and make sure their money is going to a reputable organization. An easy way to check, according to Scally, is to search for the charity on the IRS website and confirm its nonprofit status. If someone is continually asking for money, or giving deadlines, those should be red flags. 

“Certainly there’s urgency and people should definitely feel empowered to give but they don’t need to give in the immediate moment,” Scally says. “So if you have somebody that is calling you, texting you, sending you an email, it’s okay to say, Hey, let me do a little bit of due diligence and then give my gift and do so in a responsible way.” 

Another aspect to consider once you confirm that the place you want to give is legitimate is how the funds will be used. Regine Webster, vice president of the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, tells Rolling Stone that one of the easiest ways to direct funding and giving is by donating directly to local organizations run and operated by indigenous community members. 

“Anywhere we live there are organizations that have a pre-existing presence in our communities,” Webster says. “They have pre-existing relationships with individuals, families, and communities that are historically marginalized and historically underserved. Commending those organizations with financial resources is of utmost priority. Disasters begin and end local. It is already so clear to me that local communities in Maui are leading the charge for their own relief, and will be best poised to lead the charge for their own recovery across the many years that it will take.”

Both Webster and Scally also note that while giving can seem urgent at the moment, the need for funds and support will only grow as time goes on — which means there’s a good chance your donation might help more people a few months from now. 

“I would encourage people to think about the long term as well as that this is not the type of thing that’s likely going to be resolved in a matter of a couple of weeks. The fallout of this is going to take months, if not years,” Scally says.

“We very much know that the vast majority, somewhere between 80 and 94 percent of all disaster-giving occurs within the first month, and then there’s this really precipitous decline,” Webster adds. “Anecdotally, we know that the moment that the cameras go away, giving stops. So I would dearly encourage industry, individual, and household givers to think about that long term. And support a rebuilding effort that doesn’t come at the expense of Native Hawaiians.”

Below are a list of charities and organizations that are accepting donations for the residents of Maui. 

Maui Strong Fund

This Maui fund is supported by the Hawaii Community Foundation, and is focused on a rapid deployment of funds to local organizations who are helping with food, shelter, and immediate aid. According to the website, the fund has raised $17,091,490 since the fires began and has an ongoing list of organizations that are receiving money. Local organizations that need more donations to continue their work can also apply for additional funds. 

Maui Food Bank

The Maui Food Bank is providing displaced and grieving residents with food and other household necessities like hygiene products, diapers, and toiletries. You can donate directly on their portal

Maui Humane Society

The island’s human society is working to identify and find lost pets who escaped or were separated from their families during the wildfires. They are also treating injured animals who were injured and rescued, and helping find temporary housing and food for animals who can’t stay with their families at the moment. You can donate directly

Nā Keiki O Emalia

Nā Keiki O Emalia has a mission of grief support, and offers free support groups to help children and teenagers work through the loss of a family member. The grief education program is already collecting donations for food, water, coffee, art supplies, and toys that can be given to families while they recover, and begin to process loss. You can donate directly


The American Red Cross

The national organization is working to provide displaced Maui residents with temporary housing while the wildfire and rescue operations are still underway. According to the Hawai Community Fund, all three shelters on Maui are already at capacity and serve close to 2,000 people every day. In partnership with the Salvation Army, donations are going towards food costs, staffing, shelter and food for the people of Maui. 

Ka Hale A Ke Ola Homeless Resource Centers, Inc.

The Ka Hale A Ke Ola Homeless Resource Center had its 49-unit homeless shelter destroyed in the wildfire but is fundraising to house at least 140 residents displaced by the fire in addition to other displaced family units. You can donate directly on their website