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

In our previous posts, we covered researching how to decide whether to support short-term or long-term rebuilding efforts, how to choose a disaster relief charity, and whether you should donate cash or goods-in-kind. In this post, we review what you need to consider before volunteering your time or your company's following a natural disaster.

Our basic advice (hopefully self-evident) is:

#5 - Don’t go to the disaster zone. 

Unless you or your company have the specific skills required by the authorities in the impacted region and are working with a reputable organization or with the government, do not even think of travelling to “help”. Professional aid workers told me high school students and other well-intentioned do-it-yourself volunteers showed up in Haiti within days of the 2010 earthquake. This was a disaster on a disaster. At best, they were in the way of professionals.  At worst, they took away precious resources needed by victims and were a potential hazard to themselves and others.

Instead of spending money travelling to help with relief efforts, donate the funds you would have spent to a charity or project engaged in the work.  If you want to do more, organize a fundraiser in your hometown for relief efforts. Still interested in rolling up your sleeves to do hands-on volunteer work?  Get educated through courses and classes offered by The National Center for Disaster Preparedness, the American Red Cross or Canadian Red Cross, FEMA Emergency Management Training or The Justice Institute. This type of education will also benefit your community if a disaster strikes where you live.

Finally, there are some great, smaller, and more agile charities that are proving to be capable of making an impressive impact that you might be able to volunteer with.  One example is Team Rubicon. They effectively engage military veterans and trained professionals to volunteer in disaster zones. There are also Urban Search and Rescue Teams and Disaster Medical Assistance Teams you may be able to volunteer with in your area. Keep in mind that this type of volunteering is not for the faint of heart and does require specialized training.  Conditions are dangerous, communications are poor, and you must be physically and mentally fit for this type of work.

Want to learn more on how to make a meaningful impact? Check out our previous posts on supporting disaster relief efforts and come back for our final post 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.