As Hurricane Dorian ravaged the Bahamas and continues to impact the East Coast of the United States, nonprofits may wonder what research says about giving to disasters, while donors may ask how or where they can give in order to have the most impact.
The Center for Disaster Philanthropy, Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, and Candid recently released the report U.S. Household Disaster Giving in 2017 and 2018 about disaster giving and volunteering following a series of natural disasters in both years. In 2017 and 2018, approximately 30 percent of U.S. households made a disaster-related donation, and about 7 percent of U.S. households made a disaster-related donation for both U.S. and international disasters. Individuals of all ages, education, and income levels donated to disaster aid efforts.
In addition, a majority (78 percent) of disaster aid donor households reported that their disaster giving did not affect their giving to other causes. This mirrors what Dr. Patrick Rooney, executive associate dean for academic programs and professor of philanthropic studies and economics, has also found in research about disaster giving.
“Gifts given to nonprofits focused on disasters do not preclude individuals from giving to other charities,” he explained.
“The same can be said about foundations and corporations – their gifts to disaster-related causes don’t replace other giving that they have committed or already donated that year.”
Both the U.S. Household Disaster Giving in 2017 and 2018 report — the first comprehensive study on U.S. household donations to disasters — and Dr. Rooney found that media coverage is a driving factor for disaster giving, since the media inform and educate the public about effective ways to give after disasters.
Dr. Rooney also gives several tips for donors looking to create greater impact in their giving to disasters.
“It’s vital to give to long-standing relief organizations. Give directly to reputable, established aid groups with experience working in disaster relief and recovery. They are best able to assess and meet needs and have established teams, infrastructures and experience for doing so.
“In addition, consider giving in the short- and long-term, and in ways that will be helpful. Needs often vary from area to area and from moment to moment. Monetary donations provide relief workers with the flexibility to use your gift in the way that is most needed at any given time.”