Our world is not lacking in natural disasters. In any given month, communities are experiencing or cleaning up from a hurricane, flood, earthquake or other unexpected event.
Whether watching events unfold from near or far, many people have a natural inclination to provide compassionate assistance in any way they can.
But it can be difficult to decide where to donate supplies, money or boots-on-the-ground labor where it will do the most good.
Here are some resources to help you decide.
How to Donate to Disaster Relief Efforts
Although donating immediately after a disaster strikes, remember that charities must operate year round, and when the news cameras leave to chase the next disaster, the victims left behind still need assistance. Whatever your donation, consider spreading it out over the course of a year (or more). Here are a few ways to help.
How to Donate Supplies
People in disaster-stricken areas almost always need food, water and other basic supplies. But each disaster also brings its own set of unique needs based on the type and duration of the event, how much time residents had to prepare and how badly the disaster impacted the community’s infrastructure.
Stick with giving to recognized charities rather than crowdfunding efforts. Even if they aren’t scams, the amatuer efforts may do more harm than good if they get in the way of organized efforts.
“Generally after a disaster, people with loving intentions donate things that cannot be used in a disaster response, and in fact may actually be harmful,” Juanita Rilling, former director of the Center for International Disaster Information told CBS News. “And they have no idea that they’re doing it.”
Here’s what to do instead:
- Check the affected area’s official website and Facebook page for information. Local officials often post lists of supplies victims and relief workers need most.
- Check with the area’s local food bank to see whether it’s accepting food deliveries.
- Look around your house for unused medical equipment like CPAP machines and wheelchairs. Type the item’s name and “donate to disaster victims” to find out where to send your donation.
- Give blood.
How to Donate Money
Several national and international organizations accept financial donations to assist with specific disasters.
Be sure to do your homework before donating money to a relief fund. These independent watchdog groups provide insight into the reputations of charitable foundations and how contributions are spent.
- Charity Navigator
- National Center for Charitable Statistics
Groups That Provide Local and International Disaster Assistance
These organizations provide disaster assistance to stricken areas:
- Center for Disaster Philanthropy
- Direct Relief
- Doctors Without Borders
- International Committee of the Red Cross
- The Salvation Army
- Samaritan’s Purse
- United Way
Groups that Provide Specific Types of Disaster Assistance
These groups provide specific types of disaster assistance:
- AARP Foundation: Older adult welfare.
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Animal welfare.
- American Humane: Animal welfare.
- Goonj: Assistance for disasters that occur in India.
- Heifer International: Post-disaster livestock replenishment.
- Islamic Relief USA: Post-disaster resources for the Muslim community.
- The Jewish Federation of North America: Post-disaster resources for the Jewish community.
- Portlight: Disaster assistance for people with disabilities.
- Save the Children: Child welfare.
- Support the Girls: Bras and feminine hygiene products for people in disaster-affected locations.
- UNICEF: Child welfare.
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How to Donate Time and Labor
If you plan to donate time and labor after a future event, consider taking the free disaster training course through the American Red Cross to understand how communities are affected by disasters and how they recover.
Here are some organizations to connect with if you want to help out in person in the wake of a disaster. Note: Some of these opportunities have volunteer eligibility requirements.
- All Hands Volunteers
- American Red Cross
- Convoy of Hope
- FEMA Community Emergency Response Team
- Habitat for Humanity
- Headwaters Relief Organization
- International Orthodox Christian Charities
- Local food banks
- National Association for Amateur Radio
- National Organization for Victim Assistance
- Team Rubicon
Lisa McGreevy is a former staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.
This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.