Hurricanes, earthquakes, and other disasters often strike without warning and have devastating consequences. In their aftermath, you can make meaningful contributions to help survivors and the impacted community.
1. Give cash.
Chances are survivors do not need your old ski jackets or toys. They may not even need canned goods, diapers, or bottled water shipped from faraway places. Needs vary greatly from disaster to disaster and even day to day. Your cash donation gives responding organizations the flexibility to purchase the goods and services that survivors need the most. Moreover, unrequested in-kind donations take time and space to process and store, diverting precious resources from survivors.
2. Invest in local nonprofits responding to the disaster.
Local nonprofits are vital to disaster recovery but often lack the capacity to fundraise on a global scale. This means local nonprofits receive a much smaller share of charitable donations (a mere 2-3% of overall humanitarian funding). Your donation to a reliable local nonprofit will strengthen the disaster-affected community and boost the local economy, helping survivors become more resilient to future disasters. Local nonprofits will be there long after the news cameras leave, and they understand their community’s needs better than anyone else. You can find vetted, local nonprofits responding to global disasters through the Disaster Recovery Network at GlobalGiving, Charity Navigator, or the Center for International Disaster Information.
3. Do not rush to volunteer.
The days, weeks, and months that follow a disaster are difficult and chaotic. Electric and communications systems are down, roads are blocked, and supplies are scarce. It could be a dangerous environment for both survivors and volunteers. Saving lives is the immediate goal of skilled first responders, and your presence as a volunteer could complicate their search and rescue operations. You could also deplete limited resources, such as clean water and food. Instead of rushing into a disaster zone, make a cash donation and wait to see if, when, and what type of volunteer support is requested by the affected community later.
4. Share the stories of survivors.
It is important to many communities that their challenges are not forgotten after disaster strikes. Share news from trusted media sources on your social network, raise awareness by hosting a film screening, or write an op-ed to your local newspaper.
5. Provide long-term support.
A startling 70-80% of disaster funding is aimed at short-term relief, and most of it is given within the first two months of a disaster. While funding dries up or stops altogether, needs persist for years following a disaster as families strive to rebuild their communities. You can plan your donations after a disaster to help survivors over the long haul. Consider giving a smaller amount immediately, then giving again after some time has passed. Or better yet, set up a monthly, recurring donation that will provide a reliable source of income to help communities meet long-term needs.
6. Focus on disaster risk reduction.
Did you know that every $1 invested in disaster risk reduction saves $6 in the aftermath of a disaster? Despite this fact, five times more is spent globally on disaster response than risk reduction. Disaster-resilient homes and businesses, early warning systems, and risk mapping save lives, but relatively little attention is paid to these critical activities around the world. This leaves the most vulnerable communities, including children, women, and low-income families, underprepared when disaster inevitably strikes. Learn more about disaster risk reduction in your community, or in places close to your heart, and explore what you can do to advance it.
Your thoughtful contributions in the aftermath of a disaster can help a community get back on its feet and protect itself from future disasters. Follow these six disaster giving principles, and you will be well on your way to creating lasting change.