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Monday, October 21, 2019

5 Things to Consider When Supporting Disaster Relief and Recovery


Our friends at Hope for Haiti contributed this guest post based on their experience in short- and long-term disaster relief following the devastating earthquake in Haiti in 2010 and Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

Natural disasters and humanitarian crises are a recurring issue in many developing countries. Even the United States has been plagued with major hurricanes, tornadoes, and fires in recent years. With each passing year, organizations that serve these areas diligently prepare for the worst and hope for the best. For donors, it can feel overwhelming to research and choose an organization to support in the wake of a crisis. As one of Charity Navigator’s Top 10 Disaster Relief Organizations, we’re happy to share our best advice with you today on how organizations and donors can be good partners during humanitarian disasters.

At its core, a humanitarian response requires quickly developing efficiencies, sharing best practices among organizations/governmental agencies, and learning from past mistakes. At Hope for Haiti, for example, we adjusted our core programmatic approach after the Haiti Earthquake in 2010 based on what we learned during relief efforts. Following Hurricane Matthew in 2016, we were able to apply much of what we learned about logistics, donor communication, and balancing immediate disaster response with long-term recovery. We believe there is always room for improvement, and that’s why we’ve listed some things to consider when supporting relief efforts below:


1. First, look to local organizations that are already on the ground. These organizations
are already working in the area and have formed close relationships with the communities they serve and other strategic partners. Their capacity and effectiveness will be greater than an organization that hopes to fly in from a different area and oftentimes lacks a complex understanding of the cultural, political, and logistical context.

2. Pay attention to accountability, transparency, and governance. As a donor, you want
to ensure that the money you’re donating to an organization is going to directly make an
impact in aiding relief efforts. Visit Charity Navigator and read up on the organization you’re thinking of donating to. On an organization’s Charity Navigator profile, you’ll be able to access the tools, ratings, and information you need to find a charity that matches your philanthropic criteria. You’ll also be able to see their impact in action through Charity Navigator’s partnership with GuideStar, Classy, Impact Matters, and Global Giving.

3. Support organizations that have short, medium, and long-term plans for disaster
response. Effective disaster response requires sustainability; an organization should
address the most pressing issues first, then form plans to address long-term recovery for those affected by the disaster. If an organization can’t outline their plan for aid, look elsewhere.

4. Don’t send things that aren’t needed. Supplies that may seem to be obviously needed in the wake of a disaster (clothing, water, food) may not actually be the supplies that people
need or that organizations are able to distribute. Sending donated items that are not useful, are culturally inappropriate, or undercut local markets could result in what many relief workers call “the secondary disaster.” Check with the organization to learn what is actually needed before starting a supply drive or mailing a box to an organization’s office. For example, you might discover that organizations actually need donations to cover purchasing locally-sold supplies in the disaster area as a way to help the local economy recover.

5. Follow up on how your support was used if you don’t hear back. All organizations
should already be doing this, but if you don’t receive an update after your donation, reach
out to find out how your support was used to make a difference. We believe that donors
are entitled to see the impact, and organizations should be ready to provide details about
how funds were spent and what impact was made. It’s part of the philanthropic journey,
and creates trust, transparency, and relationship of accountability.

With a little bit of research on the forefront, you can make a marked difference in the lives of
people affected by a disaster or humanitarian crisis. And it all can be started with a simple search on Charity Navigator.

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