After Typhoon Haiyan: Give now or give later, but give

Global Philanthropy
Thursday, November 21, 2013

On Friday, November 8, Typhoon Haiyan, named "Yolanda" by Filipino authorities, struck the Philippines. Winds measured an estimated 195 mph, likely making the storm the strongest cyclone ever to make landfall. The most affected areas are the coastal provinces of Leyte and Samar, which span 6 different islands that over 10 million people call home. As details of the devastation emerge, it is hard to comprehend. Being a world away, many donors and advisors have reached out to get advice on what they can do to help.

Yesterday I joined a webinar co-hosted by the Center for Disaster Philanthropy and Council on Foundations to discuss immediate and emerging needs, the NGO response and thoughts from the funding community. A strong theme quickly emerged: significant private funds are needed now and will be needed over the next 12 – 24 months so give now or give later, but most importantly give. That’s easy to say, but give where? Whatever option you are considering, here are some things to consider and places to turn to.

Give Now. The US government’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance described the current response as “trying to get an orange through a straw.”  As of now, the supplies are sufficient, but getting them to the region and distributed to the people that need them is nearly impossible. Supply lines to Tacloban, a large city that has dominated the news, have started to marginally improve; however, many other regions have yet to be reached for the first time since the storm struck. Volunteers are being asked to stay away and the immediate focus is on saving lives and protecting public health from secondary disasters such as water-related and crowd-transmitted communicable diseases, which can quickly emerge due to conditions on the ground.

In the days following a disaster, large international relief organizations are often able to mobilize the fastest responseWhen considering a donation look for NGOs that:

  • Have a strong disaster response track record – someone who has done this well many times before
  • Implement their work through local partners when possible
  • Are willing to engage in an effort that is both long-term and coordinated with the government, multi-lateral agencies and other organizations

Interaction and NetHope are two important places to find out which organizations are doing what. Both places pre-vet their members based partially on these considerations as well as an NGOs financial health. This still leaves a lot of organizations, so consider narrowing the list by focusing on a specific activity such as organizations focused on protecting the water supply or those working with children. Also, ask your friends who they’re giving to. They may have a relationship with an organization doing great work that you didn’t know about.

Give Later. This story will be off the front pages soon, probably long before the process shifts from response to recovery. The recovery will take years and donations are often hard to come by during this time. In the coming weeks, as more details emerge, we will update you on the best ways to give in the long-term and how to do so with a survivor-centric approach.

The situation is overwhelming. When considering where to give, the options are vast and yet you want to be sure your money is used to help the people that need it. Try not to let these factors paralyze your donation. Use the tips above and take action!