Disasters and Donors, Part I: Introduction
October 6, 2020
Over the last six months, natural disasters from hurricanes to wildfires have struck large swaths of the United States, displacing residents and creating significant challenges for communities amid an already trying moment. Two of the states in which I’ve spent much of the past decade, California and Florida, are particularly prone to devastating natural disasters.
When disaster strikes, it’s often the philanthropic sector that is most quick to respond. Philanthropy plays an important role in resilience, relief and recovery efforts. Unconstrained by politics or budget cuts, philanthropic organizations are able to quickly provision social services for those in need and develop long-term recovery strategies that persist long after the news vans have gone home.
In this series, I’ll be outlining the ways in which philanthropy can maximize its impact in the wake of natural disasters. With wildfires still blanketing the Western U.S. in smog and hurricanes continuing to batter the Gulf coast, these strategies—unfortunately—may just be tested in real time.
Disaster Philanthropy: The Basics
The Center for Disaster Philanthropy is in many ways the name brand of disaster-related grantmaking. They launch recovery funds after major after major disasters to support strategic, long term recoveries and build stronger, more resilient communities.
While the disaster scenarios in which philanthropic organizations typically intervene may be dissimilar, they are often united by a common phenomenon—philanthropic giving is greatest immediately following the disaster, before slowing tapering off as the news cycle moves on.
Unfortunately, this reality is intuitive. Take the 2010 Haiti Earthquake for example. After killing countless individuals and inflicting billions of dollars in economic losses, charity and donations from around the world flooded into the small Caribbean nation. While this philanthropy was critical in addressing the nation’s immediate needs, many long-term concerns were left unaddressed. A decade later, the island is still struggling to recovery.
Whether Haiti or New Orleans or Paradise, California, a significant share of disaster funding is often directed toward response and relief, followed by reconstruction and recovery, with even less dedicated to resilience and preparedness efforts.
While suboptimal grantmaking allocations have long constrained philanthropy’s ability to produce long lasting positive change, over the last six months organizations have been forced to contend with a wholly new set of challenges created and exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The most obvious COVID constraint is social distancing. While integral to slowing the spread of the virus, social distancing has complicated traditional disaster relief models. No longer can displaced residents gather tightly in makeshift shelters or facilities. Particularly vulnerable to the virus, the elderly will need even greater care following an emergency incident. This yields another unforeseen externality—many relief volunteers are often older individuals, retirees looking for a way to help their communities. Given the danger posed by the coronavirus, many of these volunteers may no longer feel safe contributing, further limiting the manpower accessible to local communities in the event of a disaster.
The economic crisis has complicated disaster relief as well. With millions out of work, Americans are relying on public assistance at greater than normal levels. A disaster would strain an already burdened system, which may not be able to absorb concurrent crises.
Despite these many challenges, the American philanthropic sector is robust and remains dedicated to alleviating suffering for those in need. At the Amit Raizada Foundation, we seek to catalyze lasting social change in communities across the country. I believe that natural disasters, at their core, are often social challenges. They exacerbate inequalities and upend communities.
In this series of articles, I pull from some of the latest statistics and thought leadership within the philanthropic space to delve into strategies philanthropic organizations can take to support our populations in need. During this difficult year, it’s our duty. Here’s how we can help.
If you enjoyed this piece check out our other series spotlights:
Spotlight on Healthcare Parts I, II, III
Philanthropy & the Pandemic Parts I, II, III
Amit Raizada is a forward-thinking entrepreneur and investor whose mastery of investment and growth strategies has helped launch and grow countless successful business ventures across the globe. In 2002, Raizada founded Spectrum Business Ventures which today consists of more than 80 operating companies spanning multiple industries including technology, entertainment, real estate, financial services, hospitality, retail, eSports, fashion and others. Raizada is a lifelong philanthropist with a devout passion for giving back to the community, and in 2017 cofounded Vision Global Foundation, which supports charitable causes around the globe that focus on children and families in need. For more information about Amit Raizada please visit his bio page.