How To Help Southern California Wildfire Survivors

People, homes, and business are in danger. Get the facts, and learn how you can help California wildfire survivors.


Q: When and where did the California wildfires start?

A: Fueled by strong winds, the fires erupted in Southern California during the week of Dec. 4, 2017 and have been burning for two weeks. One of the largest fires—the Thomas Fire—has scorched more than 270,000 acres in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties (an area larger than New York City).

Q: How are the fires impacting people in their path?

A: Two people have died as a result of the fires, including Virginia Pensola, who crashed her car during an evacuation and firefighter Corey David Iverson, who died of smoke-related injuries. The most recent fires in Southern California have forced more than 200,000 people to evacuate. Hundreds of homes and properties have been destroyed—more than 1,000 structures were decimated by the Thomas Fire alone. It is now classified as one of the largest fires in California’s history.

Christie Evans, a mom with a 17-month-old son, lost her home. “It didn’t seem like anything that would happen in real life. The Christmas presents are all gone, the Christmas decorations are all gone, all that stuff,” she told The Washington Post.

The Southern California wildfires are the latest in a string of lethal wildfires that have erupted in California over the past few months, taking more than 40 lives and destroying thousands of homes and properties. “This is kind of the new normal. We’re facing a new reality in this state, where fires threaten people’s lives, their property, their neighborhoods,” said California Gov. Jerry Brown.

Q: What can I do to help California wildfire survivors?

A: Several of GlobalGiving’s local nonprofit partners are responding to survivors’ immediate needs and have asked us to help fund their preparation for relief and recovery. You can make a donation to GlobalGiving’s California Wildfire Relief Fund, start your own fundraiser for survivors, or share news about our wildfire relief fund with your friends and family.

Q: Where does the money from GlobalGiving’s California Wildfire Relief Fund go?

A: GlobalGiving’s California Wildfire Relief Fund is supporting immediate and long-term recovery work in Southern California after the December 2017 fires. GlobalGiving will deliver funding to locally-led efforts run by vetted organizations that are best-positioned to provide drive recovery in their own communities.

Q: Why do donors turn to GlobalGiving after natural disasters?

A: For donors, GlobalGiving provides a way to help quickly and effectively without having to do a lot of research. Donors can support both immediate relief and long-term recovery with donations to the California Wildfire Relief Fund. Every NGO that receives funds must commit to sending reports to donors at least quarterly, and we typically conduct site visits to check on the work being done. Donors can subscribe to receive updates from the NGO and from our site visits, so they can track their money and see what has been accomplished. An NGO itself, GlobalGiving also works to help companies give to the relief projects that are important to donors. 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. If you are working on wildfire relief on behalf of a company or foundation, you may be interested in this summary of our disaster response services, as well as our new research on disaster philanthropy best practices.

Q: GlobalGiving has a locally driven approach to disaster recovery. Why?

A: Generally, we believe local organizations are best positioned to assess and to respond to needs in the long term, so we listen carefully to what local organizations deem to be most critical. Our view is that locally run organizations can nimbly and effectively provide for immediate and ongoing community needs. Getting funds to them benefits communities directly and quickly. You can learn more about our approach in this article on our website.

Q: How will you keep me updated about how my donation is used?

A: Immediately after a disaster, we submit reports every few weeks describing the efforts that are being supported through the fund, detailing which organizations are receiving funds. As time goes on, we’ll share specific stories, photos, and videos from the efforts.

Q: How long will it take for my money to get to survivors?

A: We’ll make disbursements from the fund as soon as possible, which means your donation could be on the ground in a bank account in 7 days or less. (This is rare for most organizations that aggregate funds as we do!) As the work turns into a long-term recovery effort, we’ll disburse funds on a monthly basis.

Q: How do I know I can trust my donation to GlobalGiving?

A: GlobalGiving is a top-rated (4-star) charity on Charity Navigator. We are also accredited by the BBB Wise Giving Alliance. If at any time you’re not happy with how your funds have been used, we also offer the GlobalGiving Guarantee.

Q: I saw that there is a fee on donations through GlobalGiving. Can you explain that fee?

A: GlobalGiving, a 501(c)(c3) nonprofit, will retain a 12% nonprofit support fee and 3% payment processing fee for donations to this fund. Here’s how the nonprofit support fee breaks down: 2% goes to the administrative costs of running GlobalGiving, and the rest of the fee (10%) goes to work like identifying, vetting, and supporting organizations—most of which are local organizations. We also have a team that will work to mobilize corporate, institutional, and individual donations to these groups (many are too busy or small to have the time or connections to do this on their own). Our ability to drive further support from companies turns the GlobalGiving fee into an investment that pays off for local groups on the ground. Last year alone, GlobalGiving drove an additional $10 million to its partners, amplifying their impact in communities around the world.

Q: Can I donate goods, such as bottled water or medical supplies, through GlobalGiving to support relief efforts?

A: Thank you very much for your desire to give what you have in order to help survivors in California. GlobalGiving does not have the capacity to collect in-kind donations on behalf of our nonprofit partners. Along with the Center for International Disaster Information, we recommend that individuals give cash, rather than in-kind donations, after disasters. Through cash contributions, relief organizations can do more good for more people, with greater speed and sensitivity than with unrequested material donations. Cash donations provide medical and other life-saving services now, and rebuild infrastructure later. This interesting infographic helps explain why sending material goods, despite the good intentions, can be costly and sometimes harmful. If you are with a company looking to donate in-kind supplies in bulk, visit

Q: What other ways can I help California wildfire survivors who have lost their homes or businesses?

A: Please share our social media posts with your friends and family to raise support and awareness:

Featured Banner Photo: Firefighters battle a Santa Ana wind-driven brush fire called the Thomas Fire near Ventura, California, December 5, 2017. Photo by REUTERS/Gene Blevins.

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