A Better Approach To Disaster Relief

Early in its history, the GlobalGiving community realized the need for a locally driven, long-term response to natural disasters and humanitarian crises. Here is how we respond in the darkest hour.



Why GlobalGiving responds to disasters

When the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami hit, our website lit up and the phones started ringing. The GlobalGiving community relied on us to connect donors and companies to vetted local organizations that were responding to the crisis on the ground.

Since the tsunami, people have turned to us to make vital connections when disaster strikes and ensure help gets to where it’s needed most. GlobalGiving wasn’t originally established with disaster recovery funding in mind, but the crowdfunding community, we realized, held the key to a better approach to disaster relief.

Because GlobalGiving already has thousands of partners in 175+ countries, whom we work with 24/7, we’re well-positioned to deliver critical resources from donors to people who live and work in disaster-affected communities. They know their communities’ needs better than anyone else. Since the Indian Ocean tsunami, we’ve responded to dozens of natural disasters and humanitarian crises in the 16 years that have followed.

How we help

When making the decision to mobilize our network in the aftermath of a disaster, the GlobalGiving team considers the strength of our network in the affected area, the requests for help from our local partners, the scale of the disaster, and the number of people affected.

In extreme situations like the earthquakes in Haiti and Japan, the decision is easy. In other cases like Australian wildfires and Missouri tornadoes, we wait to hear how our nonprofit partners are responding and whether our community of donors and companies can contribute to the disaster relief effort.

We always put the needs of the disaster-affected community first, and our community-led disaster recovery model is based on trust. To date, the GlobalGiving community has raised more than $100 million for disaster relief and recovery all over the world.

What makes GlobalGiving’s disaster recovery approach different

When disaster strikes and we know our community is well-positioned to help survivors, we begin to raise money immediately through a dedicated relief fund. We also encourage our partners to post specific projects related to recovery (as soon as they have Internet access and are able). We can make disbursements from the fund directly into our vetted partners’ bank accounts within days if it is necessary.

Our existing vetting and banking relationships set us apart; sometimes it takes NGOs and aid organizations months, or even years, to disburse funding. Later, we disburse funds as needs develop, taking a more deliberate approach, learning more about the situation, and carefully allocating funds to organizations demonstrating a clear purpose and a willingness to report back to donors on specific results. Our priority after any disaster is to support the work that the affected community believes to be most important.

Generally, we believe local organizations are best positioned to assess and to respond to needs, so we listen carefully to what they deem to be most critical.

Why local is best

Our view is that locally run organizations can nimbly and effectively provide for immediate and long-term community needs. Getting funds to them benefits communities directly and quickly. It also helps build capacity in local organizations who are committed to their communities for the long haul, helping them become more self-sufficient and resilient in the face of future disasters. (We captured on our thoughts in a colorful infographic, too. Check it out here.)

We do partner with larger international NGOs that specialize in disaster response to provide a necessary backbone, as they are often best equipped to provide initial relief and recovery support in affected areas. However, we quickly work to transition our support to local nonprofits as soon as they are able to drive the recovery work. (You can learn more about why this community-led approach is so critical through our research with The Conference Board.)

We require every NGO receiving funds to report on activities at least quarterly, and we typically conduct site visits to check on the work being done.

Why donors and companies trust GlobalGiving

For donors, GlobalGiving provides a way to help quickly and effectively without having to do a lot of research. Donors can support a specific relief or recovery project, or they can trust GlobalGiving by giving to the disaster-specific fund.

All of our donors receive specific updates, so they know where their funds have gone and what has been accomplished. It’s why nonprofits like P.E.C.E.S. in Puerto Rico, donors like Jaime, and companies like Hewlett-Packard choose GlobalGiving.

Many companies use GlobalGiving to track and match employee donations to disaster relief efforts, amplifying employee impact and driving further support directly where it’s needed. The result is a response to disasters that saves lives, in the harrowing hours and in the difficult years that follow a catastrophe.


Featured Photo: The Disaster Recovery Network at GlobalGiving, in partnership with IsraAID, provided emergency healthcare to survivors of Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines. Photo by IsraAID.

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