When a disaster strikes, we all feel the impact and look for ways to offer help. The Vermont Community Foundation stands ready to connect donors with our neighbors in need—both here at home and around the world. Here are some things to keep in mind when donating to disaster recovery efforts.
Learn as much as you can before taking action.
No two disasters are alike. Talk with friends, colleagues, and leaders in your community to figure out the most appropriate way for you to help and where your donation will have the most impact at that moment. It’s useful to know what kind of activities you want to support and then find those who are doing that kind of work – some organizations focus on rescue and relief, others specialize in long-term rebuilding. Be especially cautious in responding to emails or texts from organizations that are new to you. Administrative costs can matter, but don’t let that be your only guide. Some organizations with higher overheads use that overhead to maintain an infrastructure that allows them to respond quickly when needs dictate.
Rebuilding requires national and local resources.
Responding to a disaster requires cooperation between national relief organizations which have the infrastructure and the experience in dealing with large-scale disruptions, as well as the local organizations that have an intimate knowledge of how the community works. It can sometimes be a little more challenging to get a sense of which local organizations to target with giving (particularly if you don’t live in that area) but such support is critical. Often, these organizations will be dealing with damage themselves even as they are responding to greater need and being asked to play a leadership role in rebuilding the community.
Think about what's going to happen down the line.
The urge to respond immediately to a disaster is almost universal. Taking the long view is far more difficult. Sometimes, the most challenging problems emerge weeks or months after the attention has shifted away from a disaster area. That’s the time when gaps appear between the relief programs and the long-term recovery efforts. Donations later on down the line to the organizations involved in this middle phase of work are incredibly important to keep forward momentum going.
Think outside of the disaster.
As tempting as it might be, try not to shift all of your donations to disaster-related efforts. Continue to support the organizations you normally support to the degree that you can. In many cases, their capacity will be stretched at the same time they will be having a difficult time getting the attention of donors who are focused on the disaster.