This page outlines the best ways you can assist individuals and communities who are impacted by a disaster.
When disaster strikes, every little bit helps. To make the most of your contributions, consider these tips for donating and volunteering responsibly:
- Cash is the most efficient method of donating. Cash offers voluntary agencies the most flexibility in obtaining the most-needed resources and pumps money into the local economy to help businesses recover. Remember, unsolicited donated goods such as used clothing, miscellaneous household items, and mixed or perishable foodstuffs require helping agencies to redirect valuable resources away from providing services to sort, package, transport, warehouse, and distribute items that may not meet the needs of disaster survivors.
- Donate through a trusted organization. At the national level, many voluntary-, faith- and community-based organizations are active in disasters, and are trusted ways to donate to disaster survivors. In addition to the national members, each state has its own list of voluntary organizations active in disasters. If you’d like to donate or volunteer to assist those affected by disaster, these organizations are the best place to start.
- Affiliate with existing non-profit organizations before coming to the disaster area. Immediately following a disaster, a community can become easily overwhelmed by the amount of generous people who want to help. Contacting and affiliating with an established organization will help to ensure that you are appropriately trained to respond in the most effective way.
- Be safe. Do not self deploy until a need has been identified and the local community impacted has requested support. Wait until it is safe to travel to volunteer sites and opportunities have been identified. Once assigned a position, make sure you have been given an assignment and are wearing proper safety gear for the task.
- Be patient. Recovery lasts a lot longer than the media attention. There will be volunteer needs for many months, often years, after the disaster - especially when the community enters the long-term recovery period.
Volunteer with a recognized organization involved in disaster response and recovery prior to the next disaster event.
- Volunteer with a non-profit organization and be trained before the next event to find meaningful volunteer opportunities following a disaster.
- There are many organizations and faith-based groups in your community that have active disaster programs and need volunteers
- These groups offer a wide range of services following a disaster:
A financial contribution to a recognized disaster relief organization is the most effective donation to make. When the public supports these voluntary organizations with financial contributions, it helps ensure a steady flow of important services to the people in need after a disaster.
- Most needed and the most efficient way of helping those impacted by disaster.
- Allow voluntary organizations to fund response and recovery efforts, obtain goods and services locally, and provide direct financial assistance to disaster survivors to meet their own needs.
- Make a financial contribution to the voluntary organization of your choice.
- If you need help in determining who to give to, the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster website has a list of major non-profits active in disaster work or contact your FEMA Voluntary Agency Liaison for guidance.
Confirm what is needed BEFORE taking action!
- Donate in-kind goods that are specifically requested or needed by recognized organizations.
- Unsolicited donated goods such as used clothing, miscellaneous household items, and mixed or perishable foodstuffs require helping agencies to redirect valuable resources away from providing services to sort, package, transport, warehouse, and distribute items that may not meet the needs of disaster survivors.
- Confirm the needs by contacting the voluntary organization of your choice before starting to collect.
- If you have a quantity of a given item or class of item to donate, and you need help in determining which organizations to give to, contact your FEMA Voluntary Agency Liaison for guidance.
For More Information
- When disaster strikes… How to donate or volunteer successfully! (PDF 258KB, TXT 10KB).
- Managing Spontaneous Volunteers in Times of Disaster: The Synergy of Structure and Good Intentions (PDF 433KB, TXT 27KB)
FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.
Disclaimer: FEMA does not endorse any entities, websites, or applications, but provides data and links for informational purposes only.