Effective Crisis Grantmaking

Effective Crisis Grantmaking

Climate- and weather-related disasters and floods have been rising disproportionately in both incidence and gravity. At the same time, communities face human-created disasters including mass shootings, armed conflict, and refugee and migrant crises.
Many individual donors and institutional grantmakers are moved to help when a crisis first hits. Yet the effects of a disaster persist long past the initial headlines. Here are tips to ensure a more secure future for those most affected by disaster.
White-haired woman with a shopping tote walking past a crumbled and destroyed building
Destroyed building in Ukraine

Prioritize cash, not goods.

The early days of responding to a disaster are often chaotic. There isn’t time to sort through donations, which then take up space or likely go to waste. Needs also change fast. Cash donations allow organizations responding to the disaster to shift purchases and programming as the situation evolves.

If you want to give something more tangible, consult NeedsList, which matches the specific needs of NGOs and disaster victims to donors and local suppliers of needed goods. Purchasing needed goods from local suppliers avoids shipping costs and supports the local economy in addition to helping victims.

Consider small, local nonprofits/NGOs and larger, international

Both have critical roles to play. Local organizations in disaster-affected areas are often able to determine what their communities need most to recover. For example, in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, local organizations like People in Need Ukraine and Razom for Ukraine worked to provide food, shelter, and medical assistance to vulnerable people in Ukraine and seeking refuge across borders.

Large national and multinational organizations provide a critical role, too. These organizations have presences, networks, and specific expertise in disaster response and can mobilize and provide emergency response very quickly and at scale. For example, CARE, an international humanitarian agency, has emergency response experts in 95 countries. International Medical Corps (IMC) provides mobile medical teams and house-to-house visits and trains local community members, including health staff, social service specialists and police officers, on topics spanning health and hygiene awareness, self-care, and positive coping strategies, or Psychological First Aid.

Look beyond immediate relief.

Ensuring a more secure future requires moving through all four stages of disaster relief. Consider donating to a pooled fund which gathers donations when disaster first strikes (when attention is greatest), but disburses grants to individual nonprofits over a longer period. Examples include several funds run by the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.

There will always be another crisis, often before the first is resolved, as we saw when the COVID-19 pandemic overlapped with a catastrophic explosion in Beirut, the war in Ukraine, earthquakes in Turkey and Syria, and ongoing refugee crises. To learn more about long-term disaster response, visit CHIP’s Guidance: Help Now, Help Later, Help Better and Phases of Disaster Recovery.