Why Disaster Giving Needs Change Today—For A Better Tomorrow

The Conference Board’s latest disaster philanthropy report urges companies to change the way they respond to disasters. GlobalGiving couldn’t agree more. Here’s why our Disaster Recovery Team is investing in locally led risk reduction and mitigation and how your company can do the same.


Airbnb gives consumers choice. Lyft can get you anywhere, anytime. TOMS makes your purchase count for two. Today’s companies significantly impact consumer behavior, from what you do, to how you do it, and everything in between. The corporate role in disaster philanthropy—and influence over consumer and employee giving trends—is no different.

This summer, The Conference Board released a comprehensive research report, Disaster Philanthropy Practices. In the report, they highlight the need for companies to be more prepared for increasingly volatile disaster seasons around the world.

Among other notable outcomes, the report shared that companies are: 1) revisiting their approach to be able to respond to back-to-back disasters, 2) have a preference to for local disaster giving that supports organizations recommended by their network, and 3) collectively recognize the value in disaster preparation.

Despite these findings, the vast majority of corporate giving is still directed toward U.S.-based nonprofits, and mitigation and risk reduction programs receive only a fraction of support compared to immediate relief and long-term recovery efforts.

There’s a message I’d like to share with the companies stepping up to proactively invest in disaster preparedness:

You are leaders in the sector, and uniquely positioned to shift disaster giving trends to support impactful, community-led programming across the globe.

Investing local—we couldn’t agree more

We are heartened by the report’s findings that more than a quarter of companies surveyed are building partnerships with local nonprofits in vulnerable communities. Local organizations are at the forefront of disaster recovery. From emergency relief to long-term rebuilding, community-led organizations are better equipped to deliver local aid, and at a lower cost. By modeling this approach, companies are strengthening community resilience, supporting local jobs, and stimulating the economy throughout the recovery progress. This approach also encourages more community consensus on recovery priorities, increased engagement from appropriate stakeholders and an alignment with local culture and values. Consider Isadora Hasting’s impact. After a devastating earthquake hit Mexico in 2018, her team at Cooperación Comunitaria played a key role in recovery and resilience building in partnership with GlobalGiving’s Disaster Recovery Team. They revived long-lost, traditional building techniques, which are naturally resistant to the notoriously powerful earthquakes and winds of Mexico.

The inclination of companies to support local organizations is spot on. It’s a critical component of disaster philanthropy, one that ensures the work carries on when the hype dwindles. With the right support, giving to local organizations positions disaster-prone communities to be better prepared next time. After all, local groups were there long before the crisis, and will remain long after the cameras are gone.

Preparedness saves lives

There is no better argument for investing in preparedness than “it saves lives.” However, our brains aren’t wired to take action in response to a non-event. Surviving a disaster, for instance, is often perceived as a “non-event.” High death tolls capture our attention, not the number of survivors in need. This “donor bias” means philanthropy is disproportionately allocated toward disasters with the most deaths, rather than those with the most people in need of help. The concept of giving to mitigate the effects of a future, unknown crisis doesn’t quite invoke the same emotional and empathetic response from donors inspired to give during an actual crisis. However, lives depend on reversing this tendency.

Disasters disproportionately impact the world’s poorest countries and most vulnerable populations. Regardless of scale, event type, or location, those most susceptible to the immediate and long-term aftermath are children, pregnant women, elderly populations, people with disabilities, and disenfranchised or otherwise marginalized communities living in poverty. In short, these communities bear the brunt of the cost of non-response and lack of adequate preparation. Companies that invest in preparedness and mitigation programs are giving local communities an opportunity to defend against the inevitable, and the best shot at surviving the next crisis.

Preparedness saves billions in recovery costs

In today’s global economy, we can’t ignore the financial benefits of investing in preparedness and risk mitigation. As cited in the report, data from the United Nations shows an annual investment of $6 billion in appropriate disaster risk management strategies could generate risk reduction benefits worth $360 billion.

These strategies—designed with an eye toward the future—include activities that would reduce the impacts of disaster (i.e. environmental resilience programs), better position vulnerable communities to respond (i.e. risk mapping and emergency response plans), and accelerate the recovery timeline (i.e. prioritizing local businesses and labor for rebuilding).

Considering that there was $225 billion in global economic losses from natural disasters in 2018 (and $300 billion in 2017), these are not statistics companies can ignore. Strategic disaster philanthropy reduces risk to your global teams and supply chains based in disaster-prone areas, and reduces risk to your bottom line.

What’s next for disaster philanthropy?

Looking to the future, reactionary philanthropy will not be enough to sustain the steadfast rise of extreme-weather events. Companies that prioritize investment in disaster preparedness programs are the future of disaster philanthropy. They have an opportunity to revolutionize giving trends and get global consumers to think smarter about how they give, where they give, and when they give.

GlobalGiving is proud to partner with companies that are taking action on this new reality. As noted in the report, we advocate for a more strategic, holistic approach that focuses on the entire life cycle of any given crisis. When disaster first strikes, our global network of vetted nonprofit partners provide real-time updates that help inform where resources are most needed. Beyond immediate relief, these same partners serve as a trusted solution for donors seeking to support meaningful long-term recovery and resilience programs that prioritize vulnerable communities and families who need it most.

Learn more about how GlobalGiving helps companies with local disaster giving and risk mitigation by downloading our Corporate Disaster Response Checklist.

Download the corporate disaster response checklist.

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Learn more about GlobalGiving’s disaster response services for companies and foundations.

Note: This article was originally published on The Conference Board.

Featured Photo: Relief rebuilding to 25 communities in Nepal by org

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