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ISSUE NUMBER 172 | September 5, 2017

4 Ways to Respond to Hurricane Harvey (or Any Disaster)

There is nothing like reports and photos of devastation after a natural disaster to spark one’s desire to lend aid and support. Hurricane Harvey in Texas and southwest Louisiana most certainly has captured our attention, and now Hurricane Irma has entered the picture as a potential threat to the Leeward Islands and the US coast. But all too often, the outpourings of charitable gifts dry up long before the needs created by that disaster are all met. If you’re considering lending your support to those affected by a natural disaster, I encourage you to do so — and to consider the following four ways you can make a meaningful difference.

  1. Respond to Immediate Needs.Right now, many people in Texas and southwest Louisiana are homeless, hungry, scared, looking for missing relatives, displaced and despondent. The financial assistance that you give right now will help people cope in this time of crisis, and I urge you to follow your instincts and make that donation. National organizations like theAmerican Red Crossnaturally come to mind, but a local community foundation is also a smart place to share your gifts. For Hurricane Harvey, please visit theGreater Houston Community Foundation, theCommunities Foundation of Texas, or theCommunity Foundation of Southwest Louisianato make a contribution. For other disasters in other locations around the world, you can use this interactiveatlasto find local community foundations.

  2. Fund Recovery.In two weeks, Hurricane Harvey will have dropped from the news cycle. You’ll be inundated with other things to think about – possibly even Hurricane Irma. But many people on the Gulf Coast will still be homeless, unable to work, seeking shelter and food, and trying to rebuild their lives. They’ll also be dealing with the cleanup of chemicals from 13 toxic waste sites that were flooded in the storm.

    Natural disasters strike in what seems like an instant, but the work of recovery and rebuilding goes on for months or even years. Unfortunately, this is the period when most givers have moved on. It’s also a time when sustained gifts can make a huge and lasting difference — rebuilding homes and schools, replacing weathered infrastructure, repairing environmental damage, and helping communities to emerge better than before. Even when national organizations have moved on, those local community foundations are still at work.

    So once again, check out theGreater Houston Community Foundation, theCommunities Foundation of Texas, or theCommunity Foundation of Southwest Louisianaas quick, easy and effective vehicles for supporting recovery in the wake of Harvey. You can also donate to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy’sHurricane Harvey Recovery Fund, which will focus on medium- and long-term needs such as rebuilding homes, businesses and infrastructure; meeting the needs of young children; supporting mental health needs and boosting damaged agricultural sectors.

    Focusing on recovery can also be a great opportunity to ensure that recovery is equitable. Otherwise, resources may go to areas where voices are the loudest, but not necessarily where the need is greatest. The Center for Disaster Philanthropy provides a link to theDisaster Recovery Tracking Tool, created by Texas A&M University, that specifically helps local governments and other stakeholders monitor recovery efforts for inequities.

  3. Invest in Mitigation or Reform.There is nothing like a 75+ MPH wind to reveal flaws in a system. After Hurricane Katrina, we all learned about the weaknesses in the levy system in New Orleans. Post-disaster is a great time to revisit infrastructure issues policies and practices that will be needed to bear the brunt of a natural disaster and change them before the next hurricane or wildfire or earthquake strikes. An objective, outside funder can help bring community players together without pointing fingers or assigning blame to tackle these issues and make needed changes together.

  4. Get Ready for the Next One.The very best way to weather a natural disaster is to be prepared for it before it strikes. For example, Nashville, Tennessee, now has a disaster plan to respond to floods, co-created by local funders like theCommunity Foundation of Middle Tennessee, the city and area nonprofits. Everyone knows what their role is and when to play it, which greatly reduces danger when flooding occurs and helps speed the recovery process. For a funder, supporting this kind of disaster planning process is a way to protect other investments in a community.


Want to learn more? TheCenter for Disaster Philanthropyis a powerful resource for funders who want to respond to natural disasters around the globe. Here, you’ll find not only ways to respond now, but strategic ways to help support the planning and preparedness that will mitigate the impacts of future disasters. For global disasters theInternational Committee of the Red Crossis a go-to resource for responding to immediate needs, and the report “The World Humanitarian Summit: A Pivot Point in Philanthropy’s Contribution to Addressing World Humanitarian Crises” offers 10 recommendations for effective philanthropy directed toward global humanitarian crises. Inside Philanthropy provides alist of disaster and refugee funders. Lastly, please considerthese eight tipsfor supporting long-term recovery.


This article was originally written for and published byForbes.comon August 28, 2017, and updated on September 5, 2017.

© 2017 Kris Putnam-Walkerly. All rights reserved. Permission granted to excerpt or reprint with attribution.

Kris Putnam-Walkerly, MSW,has helped to transformthe impact of top global philanthropies for over 18 years. A member of theMillion Dollar Consultant Hall of Fameand named one ofAmerica's Top 25 Philanthropy Speakers. Author of the award-winning bookConfident Giving: Sage Advice for Funders, which was named one of"The 10 Best Corporate Social Responsibility Books."For more ways to improve your giving, visitPutnam Consulting Group.

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Learn moreabout this and other services offered orcontact Kristoday to begin a trusted advisor relationship.

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Looking for a provocative yet practical speaker at your next event? Kris Putnam-Walkerly was named one of “America’s Top 25 Philanthropy Speakers” in 2016 and 2017.Learn moreorbook Kris todayfor your next conference or event.

September 7, 2017 - Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers

Racial Equity & Philanthropy: Achieving Equity…How Exactly?

September 14, 2017 - Iowa Council of Foundations Connect Conference (Newton, IA)
Out of Your Bubble and Into Your Community (Keynote)

September 14, 2017 -Iowa Council of Foundations Connect Conference (Newton, IA)
Avoiding “Delusional Altruism”: How to Create a Legacy of Impact, Respect, and Value

September 19, 2017 - National Center for Family Philanthropy webinar
Part three of a three-part webinar series on how family foundations are embracing equity

September 27, 2017 - Philanthropy West Virginia Annual Conference
Avoiding "Delusional Altruism": How to Create a Legacy of Impact, Respect, and Value

October 16, 2017 - CONNECT Conference, Exponent Philanthropy, Denver
Out of Your Bubble and Into Your Community

October 19, 2017 - National Forum on Family Philanthropy
Achieving Equity…How Exactly?

November 14, 2017 - Southeastern Council on Foundations’ Annual Conference, Trustees-Only Luncheon, Orlando, FL
How Will Trustees Lead Into the Future?

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