Disaster Philanthropy

About this collection: This NCFP Content Collection provides introductory resources and more detailed advice on disaster preparedness and response strategies from our colleagues at the Center for Disaster Philanthropy. 

Natural disasters occur with disturbing frequency. Family philanthropists are often on the front line in responding to them. Strategic disaster-related giving requires an understanding of the nuances of the disaster life cycle, from risk reduction through long-term recovery, and the timely planning of gifts that make the most of available resources, cut down on duplication of efforts, and offer more than a quick fix for communities affected by disasters. This NCFP Content Collection provides introductory resources and more detailed advice on disaster preparedness and response strategies from our colleagues at the Center for Disaster Philanthropy. Know of other good resources to include here? Please suggest a resource.

Center for Disaster Philanthropy: Principles of Disaster Giving

  • Take the long view. Even while focusing on immediate needs, remember that it will take some time for the full range of needs to emerge. Power loss, transportation outages and flood-damaged homes may be top of mind, but it takes a while to truly understand the impact that the disaster has had on people’s lives. Be patient in planning for disaster funding. Recovery will take a long time and flexible funding will be needed throughout.
  • Recognize there are places private philanthropy can help that government agencies might not. With the increase in extreme weather events, governments cannot fully fund recovery. Therefore, private funders have opportunities to develop innovative solutions to help with recovery efforts and to prevent or mitigate future disasters that the government cannot execute.
  • All funders are disaster philanthropists. Even if your organization does not work in a particular geographic area or fund immediate relief efforts, there are ways to align disaster funding with your existing mission. If you focus on education, health, children or vulnerable populations, disasters present prime opportunities.
  • Support the sharing of best practices. Florida, for example, has developed stringent building codes to mitigate destruction from hurricanes. Interested donors could help support the transfer of expertise from one region to another before the next disaster occurs. Another area for best practices research and sharing — efforts to coordinate volunteers as well as the distribution of supplies.
  • Connect with other funders. Collaborative philanthropic response to the disaster leverages combined expertise and maximizes the value of the human, financial and technical resources donated. The Center for Disaster Philanthropy works closely with community foundations, regional associations, funders and responding nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to share trustworthy information and analysis.
  • Look to past disasters for guidance. There are often lessons learned that could be used to create better policies and procedures. Consider funding disaster risk-reduction research or projects that could inform more effective disaster preparation and response policy.
  • Ask the experts. If you are considering supporting an organization that is positioned to work in an affected area, do some research. The Center for Disaster Philanthropy, National Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters, and Interaction have lists of organizations working in affected communities. In addition, local community foundations have insights into NGOs that are best suited to respond in a particular community.

Learn more at the Center for Disaster Philanthropy website.

NCFP Webinar: Disaster Philanthropy: The Role of Family Giving in Preparedness, Response and Recovery

Additional Perspectives, Examples, and Resources

Disaster Giving: The Role of Families in Relief, Recovery, and Rebuilding

Although many families establish their philanthropies with a specific mission in mind which governs their grantmaking focus and decisions, many can’t help but feel a strong desire to contribute when natural disasters and other tragedies hit both close to home and across the globe. Past natural disasters have not only…

Giving Strategically After Disaster: Ten Points to Consider

In the early days following a disaster, philanthropists naturally want to take action. With communities broken and people suffering, the call to give is compelling. If ever philanthropy should step up to help, many donors believe, it is in such times of dire and unexpected need.

Are you prepared to operate your family’s philanthropy in a disaster?

Like a lot of smaller funders, the 20-year-old McCarthy Family Foundation operated out of Treasurer Tim McCarthy’s home office. He learned a lot of important lessons about disasters the hard way after his home was among the hundreds of properties destroyed in the October 2007 San Diego wildfires. The foundation…

The Ansara Family Fund: Partnering Beyond Borders for Long-term Impact

When Karen and Jim Ansara contacted the Boston Foundation on January 14, 2010 to talk about how their family’s donor advised fund could best respond to the earthquakes in Haiti – which had happened less than 48 hours before – they were continuing both a longstanding commitment to international philanthropy,…

California Wildfires – What’s a Funder to Do?

The recent California wildfires spurred a flurry of donations. But what happens after the affected families fade from the headlines? Regine A. Webster of the Center for Disaster Philanthropy gives practical suggestions for donors and organizations to help those affected by the disaster.

North Bay Fires: Five Lessons Learned

How can we replicate the outreach and support that was so easy to offer in urgent times to the more chronic challenges our communities face every day?

Why Support for Long-Term Harvey Recovery is So Vital

For every day of immediate relief, there are at least ten days required for mid-term recovery and at least 100 days for long-term recovery. Based on that estimate, people will be recovering from hurricane Harvey for at least three years and probably longer.

What Funders Should Know in Addressing the Refugee Crisis

The Center for Disaster Philanthropy hosted “The European Refugee Crisis: How Funders Can Help,” a webinar, on Sept. 15. Panelists were Bob Kitchen, International Rescue Committee; Shelly Pitterman, UNHCR; Ed Cain, Conrad N. Hilton Foundation; and Michael Fields, Xylem Watermark.

Giving to Nepal Earthquake Response? Take Three Long Breaths

With today’s news of the horrific Nepal earthquake I am driven to take immediate action — to make an on-line donation or wire money to friends of friends in the dust-choked streets of Kathmandu and green pinnacles of rural Nepal. I am consumed with the grief of my many Nepali…