Giving Smarter to Aid Victims of Disaster
During a time of natural disaster, we are often asked, “How can I do the most good?” Everyone wants to give to those who have been affected, but so often stories appear revealing instance after instance of well intended but rushed and ineffective generosity. As managed giving consultants for individuals, families and companies, we offer the following insight to give smarter in times of disaster and great need – whether you are giving $20 to aid immediately or want to join forces to make a lasting, sustainable change.
- Determine the type of aid you want to give. Immediate? Long-term? A single donation? Ongoing aid? Specialized help (medical, skilled labor, etc.)
- Find the right organization. Immediate disaster relief is best undertaken by a handful of first responder organizations that either work with international aid organizations or have the infrastructure, networks and experience to get people, supplies and aid on the ground almost immediately. Other organizations can be particularly useful after the first critical days and weeks have passed and rebuilding can begin. Once you determine what kind of aid you want to give, find an organization whose specialty matches that aid. For larger donations, you may want to turn to a nonprofit advisor (like Operation Kids Foundation) who guides donors on the most effective ways to make a difference – at no charge. Highly regarded and efficient “first responder” organizations include:
- Wait and assess. During the “waiting” phase in the hours, days and weeks following a disaster, donations are best utilized by those organizations engaging in immediate disaster relief and providing food, potable water, rudimentary shelter and urgent medical care. After emergent needs have been cared for is the time to think long-term and big picture.
- Look for organizations with local partners, resources and data. Often the perceived need from the outside is not the actual need on the inside. Many times money and time are wasted providing items or solutions that are not conducive politically, economically or culturally by well meaning persons and organizations wanting to help.
- Look for organizations who seek to ignite change from the inside out. By giving a sense of ownership and control to those being aided, many political and cultural missteps are avoided and whole communities can be engaged to assist in rebuilding efforts.
- Look for catalyst projects. While immediate aid from first responders is critically needed as part of any disaster response plan, donors should understand that beyond immediate food, safety, medicine and shelter, whole communities need to be rebuilt. Lasting, sustainable change can not occur if the root infrastructure is not rebuilt. Guided by the old proverb, “If you hand a man a fish, you feed him for a day; if you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime,” catalyst projects seek to address core community rebuilding issues that, once addressed, enable and empower the communities themselves to focus on other critical needs.
- Consider a recurring donation. While there is immediate need for funds and supplies in the hours and days after a disaster, there is even greater need after the initial first response. Creating sustainable change and rebuilding can take months and years after the disaster – leaving great need long after the news cameras have been turned elsewhere. Consider giving a little each month to your chosen organization (or organizations) to enable continual progress.
If you have questions or would like guidance on the best way to make a meaningful donation to disaster relief or rebuilding organizations, please call us at 888-575-GIVE or send us an e-mail.