4 Things Facebook’s Crisis Response Program Taught Me About Disasters

During a year marked by compounding disasters and virtual connections, Facebook’s crisis response program made a real impact on local disaster relief—from Canada to Indonesia. GlobalGiving’s Business Partnerships Fellow shares how Facebook donors helped provide face masks, mental health care, and other essentials for survivors.


In the tumultuous year of 2020, we witnessed disasters devastate communities around the world. Extreme temperatures led to bushfires across New South Wales, Australia, taking at least 25 lives and impacting millions of hectares of land there. When the California wildfires began amid the pandemic, they destroyed homes and forced thousands of residents across the state to evacuate. One of the year’s biggest disasters, Super Typhoon Goni in the Philippines, directly affected nearly 1.2 million people and damaged more than 226 schools.

But when I began working on the Facebook Crisis Response Program, I also saw how our partners at Facebook and its users supported local leaders as they responded to these disasters and others in their communities.

Through Facebook crises donate buttons, individuals contributed $1.5 million to disaster relief efforts across 64 countries in 2020. That left me grateful for individuals’ generosity and in awe of how GlobalGiving’s nonprofit partners used the funds to effectively respond to ever-changing needs in their communities.

Here are four lessons I learned from GlobalGiving’s crisis response partnership with Facebook and the nonprofit organizations it fueled last year:

    1. Nonprofits know how to respond to compounding crises.

    Our partners pivoted their emergency disaster response when resources were tight and the pandemic added to local challenges. In Santa Rosa County, Florida, the Five Mile Swamp Fire impacted people who were already having trouble accessing food due to the pandemic. Donations made through the crisis donate button helped our partners at Feeding the Gulf Coast respond to the community’s needs by providing essential food supplies. And when Typhoon Haishen hit Kyushu, Japan and contaminated the water supply, Operation Blessing Japan distributed chlorine to disinfect drinking water and masks to halt the spread of COVID-19 among the elderly, people with disabilities, and patients in hospitals across Japan.

    2. Flexible funding is critical.

    The pandemic has underscored an important point about nonprofit funding: flexible grants let nonprofits meet evolving urgent needs in their communities. After landslides hit the community of Baixada Santista in São Paulo, Brazil, Instituto Oswaldo Ribeiro De Mendonca used a flexible $1,000 grant raised through the crisis donate button to sew masks for the elderly and members of their community who didn’t have the resources to protect themselves from COVID-19. SOS Children’s Village used a flexible grant for the flooding in Djibouti City, Djibouti, to provide direct financial support to children in Tadjoura village.

    3. Disasters have unseen impacts.

    As our local partners refocused activities to serve their communities in the aftermath of disasters and through the pandemic, they also had to prioritize mental health care. Traumatic experiences can disrupt livelihoods and access to healthy coping mechanisms, creating uncertainty that may lead to an increase in drinking and drug use. That’s why Fresh Start Recovery Centre focused on helping people who need and want to recover access treatment services after an ice jam in a local river caused flooding in Alberta, Canada. And when a 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck Croatia and impacted Slovenia and other neighboring countries, Zagrebacko psiholosko drustvo provided psychological exercises to help people cope with these traumatic events and adjust to the lifestyle changes the pandemic caused.

    4. Some communities are hit harder by disasters.

    I’ve seen the disproportionate impact crises can have on the refugee community in Greece and the lack of infrastructure in place to support them. The winter months are unbearable in unheated tents, resulting in respiratory illnesses and even death. Just like the refugee community in Greece, 2020’s disasters had a disproportionate impact on communities that were already experiencing illness, disability, discrimination, homelessness, or other challenges. But local nonprofits stepped in to support them. After flooding in South Sulawesi, Indonesia, the IDEP Foundation used a $1,000 grant to provide water purifiers and hygiene kits for survivors living in a refugee camp. When Hurricane Iota ravaged communities across Central America, Agua Pura Para El Pueblo worked with Diaconia Chiapas to deliver emergency relief to the elderly and families with children in the Indigenous, Maya-speaking community in southern Mexico’s Chiapas region. And during the devastating California wildfire season that lasted well into the winter, El Camino Homeless Organization used $1,000 in funds raised through the crisis donate button to support people experiencing homelessness who were forced to move from their temporary settlements due to the River Fire in Paso Robles, California.

With the many layers of challenges that communities faced in 2020 and continue to face, our partners remained resolute in their disaster response. They taught us how to stay flexible to better meet unfolding needs. I am proud that GlobalGiving is committed to supporting our partners in their disaster response efforts and that the Facebook crisis donate button is ever-evolving with new learnings from our partners. This program leverages the power of social media for good, connecting generous Facebook donors with local leaders to maximize the impact in their communities after 2020’s disasters and beyond.

Learn more about how GlobalGiving powers community-led disaster relief, recovery, and resilience.


Featured Photo: Emergency Response: Coronavirus Aid Distribution by Aksi Cepat Tanggap (ACT Foundation)


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