4 Ways to Make Disaster-Relief Donations Personal and Impactful

Sep 20, 2018
Team Rubicon volunteers remove debris from a home in Mayflower, Arizona, that was destroyed by a tornado. // Photo Credit: FEMA.

When natural disasters strike, it can be overwhelming to think about how you can make a difference. For many people, there is a natural desire to do something substantial to help communities in need, but even the most ambitious recovery efforts and good intentions can go wrong in delicate environments. Some families, or even entire communities. lose everything after being hit by a devastating hurricane, super storm, flood, wildfire, landslide or tornado; and we witness the stark reality of the word “disaster “come to life.

The 2017 disaster season – which included catastrophic storms like Harvey, Irma and Maria, among other events – forced organizations to re-evaluate best practices for responding to disaster-affected communities. As these events become more frequent and destructive, volunteering efforts must also evolve. Sometimes, collections of clothing, food and stuffed animals can ultimately add to, rather than relieve, stress to a community. Instead of donating goods, experts and officials suggest that monetary donations have the greatest potential to address the specific needs of each person impacted by a disaster.

Monetary donations are flexible and provide for culturally beneficial support, and they can be used immediately in response to a crisis. Yet, we tend to view monetary donations as less impactful, less caring and compassionate. That’s not the case! We have four ideas that can make your monetary donations more personal.

Host a garage sale

Do you have items that immediately come to mind for sending to disaster-affected areas? Instead of sending these items, sell them! Gather a few tables and advertise around your neighborhood for a disaster relief garage sale, then donate the proceeds to recovery efforts. Take it to the next level by organizing a community yard sale day, thus increasing the chances of multiplying your impact.

Multiply donated dollars

Corporations and organizations have immense potential to make an impact after a natural disaster. Check with your employer and ask if they are able to match funds donated by employees. Many companies have existing donation-matching programs already in place, and others are happy to set up such a program for specific circumstances. You can volunteer to be the campaign chairperson to get your colleagues involved.

Host a disaster preparedness fair

Are there any local nonprofits or disaster relief organizations in your community? You can team up with them to host a disaster preparedness fair. Charge admission, with proceeds donated to disaster relief, and take the opportunity to share information to help your neighbors be prepared for future natural disasters.

Use a wish list

Many nonprofit organizations make Amazon wish lists for donors during a natural disaster. This tool allows you to fill in a specific and immediate need for a disaster-affected community. Browse the current wish lists, choose your items to purchase and encourage your neighbors, family and friends to do the same.

Madi Donham