Community Foundations Keep Giving When Disasters Keep Coming


forest-1161868_1920Hurricanes and floods on the Gulf Coast. Devastation in Puerto Rico. Raging fires in Northern California. Earthquakes in Mexico. The list of natural disasters seems to be growing at an epic rate, and it’s hard to know where to give to best support relief and recovery efforts.

Fortunately, there is no shortage of places that can bridge the gap between those wanting to give and those in need. Well-known charities like the American Red Cross or The Salvation Army do good work and provide immediate relief for those hit by natural disasters. I consider these and others important front-line resources worthy of support.

But we all know that disaster relief is the tip of the iceberg. Most communities will face years, if not decades, of recovery and rebuilding. In my mind, there is no better way to support those efforts than to support the community foundations that serve areas hit by disaster. Community foundations can not only deploy quick relief funds, but can also create strategies for long-term rebuilding and recovery that include the voices and vision of community members. In doing so, they can help ensure that communities emerge from disaster in better shape than they were before the flood, storm, fire or earthquake struck.

Here are several community foundations working in the areas most recently affected by natural disasters. What’s more, community foundations all over the country are creating emergency relief funds for communities in other locales, making it possible to give locally and respond globally. You can assess the reputation of a community foundation through websites like Charity Navigator and Guidestar.

Northern California

Community Foundation Sonoma County, The Community Foundation of Mendocino County, Napa Valley Community Foundation all have created relief and recovery funds to respond to the wildfires. In addition, these three community foundations also have created the Northern California Fire Fund, housed at Silicon Valley Community Foundation to provide support for nonprofit organizations as they help individuals, families and the community recover and rebuild. The Latino Community Foundation is raising funds for three Latino nonprofit organizations that will serve farmworkers and their families. You can find more information about these and other options on the Northern California Grantmakers website.

Puerto Rico

Fundación Communitaria de Puerto Rico (Puerto Rico Community Foundation) has created the Puerto Rico Community Recovery Fund to support relief efforts for those communities impacted by Hurricanes Irma and María and encourage donations to it and to several other partners listed on the Fund’s web page.

Houston and Surrounding Areas

The Greater Houston Community Foundation has established a Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund. The Communities Foundation of Texas has a Long-Term Disaster Fund, a Mass Care Task Force Fund that supports coordinated services of the American Red Cross North Texas Region, the Salvation Army DFW Metroplex Command, the North Texas Food Bank, and VolunteerNow, and a Harvey HELP fund for college students.

Florida and the Southeast Coast

Several community foundations have established funds for recovery after Hurricane Irma, including Southwest Florida Community Foundation, The Community Foundation of Palm Beach and Martin Counties, Community Foundation of Sarasota County, and The Miami Foundation. The Community Foundation of Tampa Bay and Pinellas Community Foundation have teamed up with other funders to create the Tampa Bay Disaster Relief and Recovery Fund.


The International Community Foundation is currently directing all contributions to its International Disaster Relief Fund to relief and recovery efforts in the wake of the earthquakes that rocked Oaxaca and Chiapas in September.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. You can also find community foundations near you or near places where disaster has occurred by visiting the Community Foundation Atlas. I also encourage you to visit the Center for Disaster Philanthropy. The Center operates its own disaster recovery funds for Hurricane Irma, Hurricane Harvey, the Mexico Earthquakes and other recovery efforts. It also provides information for funders who want to learn more about preparedness, recovery and rebuilding.

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


Kris Putnam-Walkerly, MSW, has helped to transform the impact of top global philanthropies for over 18 years. A member of the Million Dollar Consultant Hall of Fame and named one of America’s Top 25 Philanthropy Speakers. Author of the award-winning book Confident Giving: Sage Advice for Funders, which was named one of “The 10 Best Corporate Social Responsibility Books.” For more ways to improve your giving, visit Putnam Consulting Group.


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