Hurricane Maria: Fast Facts

Learn more about how you can help people in the Caribbean who are struggling in the wake of Hurricane Maria.


Q: Where and when did Hurricane Maria hit?

A: Hurricane Maria hit the small Caribbean island of Dominica on Monday, Sept. 18, 2017 as a Category 5 storm, and then battered the US Virgin Islands. The powerful storm made landfall in Puerto Rico on early Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017 as a Category 4 storm. Maria—the strongest hurricane to directly hit Puerto Rico since 1932—slammed into the southeastern side of the island with winds of 155 mph, and it hit areas already reeling in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, which struck just days earlier.

Q: How did Hurricane Maria impact people in its path?

A: Estimates of Hurricane Maria casualties in Puerto Rico vary, but slow recovery from the storm by all accounts left many people without access to critical healthcare and led to a surge in deaths. A government-commissioned study led by George Washington University attributed an estimated 2,975 deaths to the storm in Puerto Rico. Lives were also lost to the storm in Dominica and the US Virgin Islands. Hurricane Maria destroyed and damaged hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses, according to officials. Maria decimated electrical lines, and millions of Puerto Ricans were without power for months after the hurricane hit. Residents told GlobalGiving about 20% of the island was still without power six months after the hurricane.

Q: What can I do to help?

A: You can make a donation to GlobalGiving’s Caribbean Hurricane Maria + Irma Relief Fund, start your own fundraiser for survivors, and/or share news about our hurricane fund with your friends and family.

Q: Where does the money from GlobalGiving’s Caribbean Hurricane Maria + Irma Relief Fund go?

A: All donations to this fund will support relief and recovery efforts in Caribbean regions affected by Hurricanes Maria and Irma. The fund will help first responders meet survivors’ immediate needs, including the provision of shelter, medical care, food, and clean water. Once initial relief work is complete, this fund will transition to support longer-term recovery efforts run by vetted, local organizations. If you are interested in donating to a fund that will cover the greatest needs of Hurricane Irma survivors, both inside and outside of the Caribbean (including Florida), please visit our Hurricane Irma Relief Fund.

Q: What’s GlobalGiving’s history in the impacted areas?

A: GlobalGiving has longstanding relationships with many partners in Caribbean, including Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, who are responding to hurricanes in the region. Our regional partners already have relationships and structures in place in the affected communities. You can find a list of our responding partners here.

Q: How do you choose which nonprofits to support through the fund?

A: We support organizations that GlobalGiving has established relationships with in the disaster-affected region. In special cases, like Hurricane Maria, we also reach out to reputable, local organizations that are not yet in the GlobalGiving network to ensure our donors’ funds are addressing as many urgent and long-term needs as possible. In these special cases, all organizations still go through GlobalGiving’s extensive vetting process, as well as additional review of their disaster response work, and we trust selected organizations to make the best decisions on the ground.

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 Hurricane Maria 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 Maria 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 and in this article in Forbes.

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. See our latest reports.

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. You can read about how quickly we disbursed lifesaving funds after Hurricane Maria here.

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. Many major news outlets, including The New York Times, NPR, and The Miami Herald have recommended GlobalGiving’s disaster relief funds. 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 nonprofit, charges a 5-12% fee on most donations, plus a 3% payment processing fee. GlobalGiving 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 the Caribbean and the United States. 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: How can I spread the word about urgent needs in the Caribbean related to Hurricanes Maria and Irma?

A: Please share our stories from Puerto Rico and social media posts with your friends and family:


Note: This article was originally published on Sept. 19, 2017 and updated with additional information on Aug. 28, 2018. Featured Banner Photo: Evacuees from Hurricane Irma in St. Maarten board an HC-130 headed to San Juan, Puerto Rico on Sept. 10, 2017. Now, just days later, Puerto Rico is predicted to be in the eye of powerful Hurricane Maria. Photo by New York National Guard.

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