Philanthropy’s Role in the Wake of Hurricane Harvey

August 29, 2017

As of this morning, the ultimate impact of Hurricane Harvey on Houston and surrounding communities is still yet to be determined. What is certain is that there is devastating, historic flooding forcing tens of thousands of people from their homes. With the National Weather Service predicting that parts of Texas may receive the largest amount of rain recorded in state history – nearly 50 inches—it is clear that it will take years to recover from the personal impact on families and individuals, as well as the billions of dollars in damage to the region. Sadly, the science behind climate change suggests that disasters such as these are expected to be more frequent and place additional strain on increasingly limited resources.

Philanthropy can play a role to bridge the resource gap and those seeking to take action have many options for giving. In terms of immediate relief, unless you are answering a specific call for resources or talent you can provide, financial donations typically are the most useful. Established relief organizations such as the Red Cross and similar organizations, and food banks such as Houston Food Bank, Galveston County Food Bank, and the Food Bank of Corpus Christi are typically good options.

While immediate action is imperative, philanthropists should also keep in mind a longer term view. Taken from the RPA guide “Giving Strategically after Disaster,” here are seven ideas to consider as you contemplate your post-disaster giving strategy:

  1.  Prepare by developing a crisis plan with guidelines around timing, decision making, focus, collaboration partners, process and more.
  2.  Be quick but don’t hurry through solid research and an analytical approach to being responsive.
  3.  Waste not by ensuring that you provide what is of most use – which is typically cash grants over goods unless there is a specific, credible request.
  4.  Reach out to communicate with trusted local sources and informants, including local partners, charities and others who are actively working in the disaster zone to cut through misinformation and assess whether your ideas might be useful.
  5.  Collaborate to avoid duplication, waste and poor prioritization.
  6.  Consider the longer term to pick up where the largest, most immediate giving leaves off and to help communities with the long process of rebuilding.
  7.  Keep your focus by, where possible, fitting your disaster-related grants into existing programmatic priorities.

For additional insight on considerations and the full list of ten ideas to consider as well as instructive examples, access the full guide here.