Four massive storms and two devastating earthquakes struck North America and the Caribbean in a span of four short weeks. Four short weeks resulting in lives lost, millions without water or electricity, and many more millions falling into the general category of “disaster affected.” And then the wildfires struck California crushing homes and businesses, causing the destruction of at least 5,000 structures, laying waste to 200,000 acres, taking 40 lives, and resulting in scores of injuries.
In my fifteen-plus years of experience as a disaster funder, I have never seen anything like the devastation caused by Harvey, Maria, Jose, Irma, the earthquakes, and the wildfires. I have never seen this number of individuals signing up for FEMA individual assistance. And I have never heard of such a projected length and duration of expected power outages. I have found myself speechless on many occasions – left wordless because of the overwhelming needs in Mexico, Florida, Texas, California, Puerto Rico and the rest of the Caribbean.
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In my fifteen plus years of experience as a disaster funder, I have never seen anything like the devastation caused by Harvey, Maria, Jose, Irma, the earthquakes, and the wildfires. I have never seen this number of individuals signing up for FEMA individual assistance.
So, what is a funder to do?
In my view, now is the time to access every reserve of philanthropic generosity that can be harnessed toward disaster recovery. Corporations, foundations of all types, and individuals need to reflect on their mission and then fulfill that mission by supporting the myriad needs that have arisen, and will continue to mount, over the course of the next months and years.
Mental health, public health, early-childhood education, home/school/business rebuilding, mold remediation, environmental protection, maternal and child health, agriculture, small business revitalization, hospitality revitalization, and livelihood development are just a few of the challenges that are of current and future concern.
There are so many ways in which funders fulfill their missions while at the same time addressing current and future needs from these disasters.
Disaster Recovery Advice to Funders
I’ll offer three specifics for how to most effectively allocate your giving:
Be Informed – Determine which unmet needs (geographic, population, or issue) you or your organization are best poised to meet. If you have subject matter expertise in public health, then absolutely look to funding an organization working to minimize a mosquito-borne outbreak in the Caribbean.
Be Committed – Focus long-term. Across the board, the disasters that we are reading about, thinking about, and worried about are just at the beginning of their very long recovery cycle. A multi-year, unfettered financial gift, offered in the vein of trust and partnership will go a long, long way to rebuilding all of the affected areas both here in the U.S. and in the Caribbean.
Be Compassionate – Ask your existing grantees how you can help them. Do whatever you can do, with your time or your financial resources, to support your existing partners.
With the increasing frequency and intensity of disasters comes the critical need for all of us to maximize our giving impact. Make sure your dollars and efforts reach as far as possible to minimize the effects of disasters on our most vulnerable communities.
Original Article by Regine A. Webster, Vice President at the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.
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