Late last month, Hurricane Sandy, the largest hurricane to target the Atlantic, devastated portions of the East Coast. It is projected to be the second costliest hurricane after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. With little warning, Sandy ravaged parts of the Eastern Seaboard and left many without power, shelter, transportation, and, most heartbreakingly, without their loved ones. Undoubtedly, Hurricane Sandy is a tragedy. After more than a week since the storm hit, many people continue to search for a glimmer of hope among the havoc.
While human lives are irreplaceable, residents of the areas hardest hit vow to rebuild; and perhaps philanthropy will serve as the aforementioned glimmer of hope that will help them do just that. In the days since Sandy struck, charities have raised more than $174 million, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy. Nonprofit organizations such as The Salvation Army are utilizing various giving vehicles to leverage donations, including online efforts, text-to-give programs and telethons. Major television networks like ABC and NBC have hosted day-long giving events and star-studded concerts to raise funds for victims of the storm.
Spikes in charitable donations following widespread tragedy is not out of the ordinary. A 2011 CNNMoney article discusses how the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2011 reshaped the way Americans respond to tragedy with philanthropy. After the attacks, Americans set a record for giving, donating $2.8 billion to help victims. Americans set another all-time charitable high after Hurricane Katrina when total donations to victims topped $5.3 billion. Americans also opened their wallets to help alleviate the devastation caused by international natural disasters, collectively donating $3.5 billion to victims of the 2004 tsunami in the South Pacific and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.
Individuals in this country and in others demonstrate extraordinary goodwill in times of grave need, even putting their day-to-day lives on hold to volunteer for cleanup and relief efforts. Tragedies, such as the recent Hurricane Sandy, are true and unfortunate tests of human strength, perseverance and benevolence. Human instinct is to help; here are a few things to keep in mind when doing so:
- Give monetarily. Oftentimes individuals feel compelled to donate canned good items, clothing and other supplies. After a natural disaster, direct funds are encouraged as those on the ground can use the monetary donations to best address pressing needs i.e. clean water, medical supplies, etc.
- Consider giving locally. Donating to well-established national and international organizations is impactful; however giving to community organizations that have a firsthand understanding of local needs and are able to work directly with the people affected, or to organizations with long histories in the community, is hugely beneficial.
- Research before you give. It’s OK to take the time to do some homework on the relief organizations you wish to support and in fact, it is wise to do so. Like any other time you give, it is important to ensure your contribution goes toward a legitimate organization. Keep this in mind especially when giving online or via text-message.
- Keep giving. Giving after a natural disaster can be rather instantaneous, especially during heightened media coverage. Fundraising for natural disaster relief is at its highest in the first few months, but tends to become stagnant after some time. Explore monthly or multi-year giving commitments to help the rebuilding and recovery of affected areas over an extended period of time.
To learn more about how you can help the recovery efforts of Hurricane Sandy, and other natural disasters, please visit the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.
Below please find a snapshot of how CCS client, the Greater New York Chapter of the American Red Cross, is contributing to the relief efforts:
Thanks to very generous philanthropic support, the New York Chapter has:
- served more than 1 million meals and snacks
- sheltered more than 5,300 people
- provided over 13,000 mental health consultations
- distributed nearly 66,000 relief items such as safety kits
The organization has also employed a number of text and online strategies to encourage support, including text to pledge $10, challenge gifts on Facebook and Twitter, and donations by celebrities including Lady Gaga, the Yankees, and the NBA Players Association.