#3 of 5-Part Series: How to Donate After Disaster Strikes

The news of further devastation this week, a second earthquake in Mexico and the Caribbean struck by Hurricane Maria - was unbelievable. Puerto Rico in the dark and buildings collapsed. As touched on in previous posts, it’s difficult to be a bystander, natural to want to help, and inspiring to see how people are helping. In Mexico City, food and other items streamed in immediately while those unscathed jumped-in to pull people from the wreckage. In response, the Mexican government specifically asked for trained medical professionals and non-profits are continuing to appeal for donations.

So, how should you give?

#3 - Cash is king.

As well-intentioned as you may be donating products, services, or sending new or used stuff (clothing, furniture, equipment, etc.) to a disaster zone, it’s not a good idea.

Shipping and environmental costs, sorting and storing items, finding people in real need to give to, overall logistics, and a multitude of other reasons make this an ineffective way to give – even if there is an organization asking you to contribute this way. Even the much-lauded TOMS Shoes had difficulty finding recipients for every pair of shoes they wanted to donate through their “one for one” model. This led TOMS to thoughtfully expand their corporate social responsibility efforts to ensure a more sustainable impact. If you need additional evidence on how goods donated may become more of a hindrance than a help, look no further than this article from NPR illustrating some pretty lucid examples on why this way of giving is a bad idea.

Basically, if you or your company are not one of the few with the skills or items requested by a government agency or reputable non-profit, donate what you can in cash. An exception to this rule is when your company has what your community needs in the midst of a disaster - like Walmart's response after Hurricane Katrina.

If you’d like to do more than cash and are motivated, consider participating in a blood drive or organize a fundraiser for relief efforts. Your donation, not matter how small, will go a long way. Many charities have agreements with businesses that effectively double or triple the buying power of your cash.

Not sure who to donate to? Check out our previous posts on supporting disaster relief efforts and check back for our final two posts in this 5-part series.


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.