The Straight Scoop on Donating after a Disaster

Chennai, India (1/15/05). Indian Ocean shortly after the South Asia Tsunami. Photo by Sue Edison-Swift/ELCA

For some reason you are motivated to help after a disaster, nearby or far away, natural or human caused. Thank you. The need is great. The first thing you need to do, though, is think.

Think about how you can be of most help. Think about what is best for the survivors of the disaster and not what is best for you.

This likely means

  1.  Donate money, not things, to the reputable non-profit, disaster-response organization in a position to do good in a good way without getting in the way. For me, that means the American Red Cross, Lutheran Disaster Response, and Lutheran World Relief.
  2. If you live in an area outside the disaster zone, donate things (clothing, toys, food) to your local non-profit organization. Or hold a garage sale and give the proceeds to the reputable non-profit, disaster response organization of your choice.
  3. If you live inside the disaster zone, and are in a position to help, look and listen, keeping in mind you should first do no harm. Share your chain saw or wet vac, if you know how to use it, but don’t get in the way of emergency personnel and other first responders.
  4. Volunteer, as you are able, when and only when volunteers are requested. Volunteers are especially appreciated during the long recovery stage.

In the immediate aftermath of a disaster, well-meaning people can get in the way and do more harm than good. To avoid this, see #1. Also,

  • Never send used things (clothes, toys) to a disaster zone.
  • Be hesitant to donate new things (clothes, toys, school supplies) after a disaster. Make sure there is a distribution plan in place. See #2.
  • If it’s important to you to give something tangible, consider giving gift cards to a business with many locations in the affected area.

Thanks for caring,
Sue (8/25/2016)

Sue Edison-Swift raised money for Lutheran Disaster Response (ELCA) between 2003-2009, which included during the South Asia Tsunami and Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

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