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Disaster relief efforts for those in need.

When you choose to support a disaster relief effort, please consider these guidelines to most effectively help those in need:

  • Donate to the organization’s general disaster relief fund, so the funds can be used where they’re most helpful.

  • Send funds instead of physical goods.

  • Help to fund prevention and continue to give over time.

  • Encourage accountability to the organizations you choose to support.

Disasters are unpredictable and last well beyond the initial event.

Make sure your generosity has a sustained impact on those who need it most.

It is common to think of disasters—floods, tornadoes, mass shootings, and refugee crises—as discrete events with fixed beginnings and ends. However, emergency management experts generally think of disasters in "lifecycles." The Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP) identifies four phases of the disaster lifecycle that happen before, during, and after a devastating event: mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery. Understanding what is needed in each phase can help you increase the impact of your philanthropy and maybe even prevent the next potential disaster.

Every phase needs charitable support

1. Mitigation

Nonprofits and government agencies can spend years trying to prepare for and mitigate the anticipated effects of an emergency. The goal of mitigation is to try to anticipate risks and minimize their physical and financial damage. Flood-proofing and insurance are two good examples. In addition, research and education initiatives can spread awareness of best practices and therefore help to anticipate and alleviate the impact of natural or man-made disasters.

2. Preparedness

Preparedness aims to increase the speed and effectiveness of the response to a disaster by, for example, stocking food and water, gathering and screening volunteers, and helping communities develop an emergency action plan. While mitigation and preparation are often overlooked by donors, they have a huge impact on vulnerable communities. For every dollar spent on disaster preparedness, at least four dollars are saved in casualties and property damage.1

3. Response

The response to a disaster is the phase most familiar to donors. They are motivated by the human need portrayed in news coverage and emotional appeals from victims and charities. Donors, nonprofits, and relief workers rush to save lives, offer humanitarian aid, and prevent further property damage. Ninety percent of all donations flow to relief efforts in the 90 days following a disaster2, but prior investments in preparedness (see above) can also make a dramatic difference in the response phase.

4. Recovery

Disaster recovery begins after the affected communities’ most pressing needs have been met. Depending on the nature and magnitude of a disaster, recovery can last months or decades. During this phase, volunteer and government organizations address long-term needs like rebuilding homes, resettling residents, investing in economic capacity and business growth, and providing mental and behavioral health support to people impacted by the disaster.

Your gift not only helps at the outset, but it provides sustained, long-term support throughout each stage of the disaster lifecycle.

To increase your impact on disaster relief, consider a giving strategy that incorporates the entire disaster lifecycle, from prevention through long-term recovery and rebuilding. As you develop your plan, keep in mind the following recommendations:


Support relief efforts for the global refugee crisis.

The unprecedented movement of people around the world has created the highest number of displaced persons since World War II. More than half of registered refugees are children and youth.

Many organizations have stepped up their response efforts, sending staff and supplies to camps and centers where the refugees arrive. The organizations listed below have been recommended by the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.