When disaster strikes, people come together to help. To make the most of your contributions, consider these tips for donating and volunteering responsibly:
- Financial contributions are the most efficient way to donate. Cash allow the most flexibility in obtaining the needed resources, at the correct time and moves 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 during disasters and are a trusted way to donate to disaster survivors. In addition to the national members, each state has voluntary organizations active in disasters (www.nvoad.org). 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 nonprofit 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.
- Do not self-deploy. Wait until a need has been identified and the local community impacted has requested support. Sign up to volunteer, and wait to travel until opportunities have been identified. Once assigned a position, make sure you have been given an assignment and are wearing proper safety equipment for the task.
- Be patient. Recovery lasts a lot longer than the media attention. There will be volunteer needs for many months, often many years, after the disaster - especially when the community enters the long-term recovery period.
Volunteer with a recognized organization involved in disaster response or recovery.
- Volunteer with a nonprofit organization and be trained to find meaningful volunteer opportunities following a disaster.
- There are many organizations and faith-based groups that work nationally and in your community, that have active disaster programs and need volunteers.
- These groups offer a wide range of services following a disaster. See National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster www.nvoad.org for more information and to sign up for volunteer opportunities.
A financial contribution to a recognized disaster relief organization is the most effective donation to make. When the people support voluntary organizations with financial contributions, it helps ensure a steady flow of important services to the people in need after a disaster. Donating cash:
- Is the best way of helping those impacted by disaster.
- Allows 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 what organization to give to, the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster website www.nvoad.org has a list of major non-profits active in disaster work.
When considering collecting and donating in-kind items, please use the established emergency management concept of allowing the responding organizations to ‘pull’ needed items and do not ‘push’ what you think is needed. Be skeptical when you hear people say ‘everything is needed’ or ‘they need as much as they can get’.
- BEFORE Collecting: Connect with organizations working in the affected area to identify WHAT is needed, HOW MUCH is needed, and WHEN it is needed. The right items, in the correct amounts, at the right time.
- BEFORE Collecting: Identify transportation to move the items from where they are to where they are needed.
- BEFORE Collecting: Identify who will take possession of the items and how they will be used or distributed.
- Used clothing is never needed in a disaster area. Donate used clothing locally to an organization that has a year round mission with used clothing. Or sell used clothing at a yard sale and donate the money raised to a responding organization.
- Unsolicited, unorganized 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, warehouse, transport, and distribute items that may not meet the needs of disaster survivors.
- When Disaster Strikes
- Brochure with tips for donating or volunteering successfully.
- Managing Spontaneous Volunteers in Times of Disaster: The Synergy and Structure of Good Intentions
- Guidance for working with unaffiliated volunteers.
- National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) Donations Policy Letter
- Outlines National VOADs policy regarding disaster-related donations.