Disaster philanthropy

May 2, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

As a north Alabama native, I was especially stricken to learn of the deadly tornadoes. Thankfully, my family was safe although without power. Seeing the videos and reading the stories of the tragedy reinforced in my mind the need for funding of disaster prevention as well as disaster relief. And, it made me think hard about what forms disaster giving should take. Disaster philanthropy is a complex thing. On the one hand, natural instinct is to help by quickly giving donations – of money, food, clothing, volunteering, and prayers. The many excellent relief organizations depend upon an immediate outpouring of donations. These donations are often put to use quickly and in some cases, also used to replenish funding pools for responding to future disasters. And, increasingly organizations are needing funds for long term post disaster reconstruction. Therein lies the rub. Most donors want their money used now, but is that always the best approach? It’s not that easy. Think of the old proverb of teaching a man to fish rather than merely giving a man a fish. Of course, that makes perfect sense. But, first you may need to give a fish because food is scarce. Then you can teach. However, sometimes the folks don’t need to be taught to fish, they were already fishermen before the disaster, they simply need fishing poles. Okay then, please do give a fish, but also give a  donation to be used for training, for jobs, and to buy fishing poles, farm equipment, livestock, computers, and all of the other vital tools needed to make a living. Give to rebuild homes, schools, communities, workplaces. Give to help prevent more losses by strengthening local disaster prevention measures. All of this is disaster philanthropy. It’s big, complicated, and vital.

About Anne Nash
Anne E. Nash is Principal and Owner of My Giving Advisor, LLC, a philanthropic advising firm located in Lexington KY. Nash is a lawyer, charitable gift planner, former foundation CEO, and social innovator. She works with foundations, corporations, and nonprofits to maximize their philanthropy. With past experience as both a funder and a fundraiser, Nash offers a skill set and knowledge that is based on actual success not merely theory.

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