5 Part Series: How to Donate After Disaster Strikes

In the wake of Harvey and Irma, 2017 is shaping up to be a crazy year for natural disasters with wildfires, monsoons, earthquakes, floods and hurricanes wreaking havoc. These disasters have left communities reeling and will take months and possibly years to recover from. For those not impacted, it’s heartbreaking to witness. The natural reaction is to turn off the screen and put your head in the sand or donate something to the first charity that does a heart-felt appeal.  

Before taking either of these actions, take a moment to learn some best practices for donating after a crisis:

# 1 – Do you want to give a Band-Aid or provide a cure? 

At the onset of a disaster, charities designed to help during the initial crisis quickly pull out. When the tsunami hit Southeast Asia in 2004, I, like many people donated to the Red Cross. I was dismayed years later when I found out that much of the money collected for these relief efforts was not used for the intended purpose even though communities were still struggling to recover.

The Red Cross does fantastic work in the immediate aftermath of a disaster and provides communities with education on emergency preparedness before a disaster. (Note: there is the Canadian Red Cross, American Red Cross, International Red Cross - affiliated but doing work typically in different regions.) If immediate disaster relief is where you want to give they are a good choice. However, if you’d like to support rebuilding efforts, the charities working locally in the impacted region with boots on the ground will deliver long after cameras are pointed elsewhere. These charities are also unlikely to benefit from the bonanza of funds that more well-known charities receive post-disaster. 

Likewise, beware of charities that are using a disaster as an opportunity to fundraise during the outpouring of support but are not actually doing work in an impacted area. Research established charities with a track record that are experienced in supporting a community’s rebuilding efforts and are there long-term in the region. 

Want to know more?  Keep reading our posts in this five-part series on best practices for making a donation to disaster relief efforts.


Are you a business, individual, or foundation that would like to be strategic about your giving, social responsibility, and impact? Or a charity that would like to innovate, scale and become fiscally sustainable? Not sure where to start or what to focus on? Contact Nicole and the VortoVia team for a consultation.