Hurrican Harvey and What You Need to Know About Disaster Giving

I spent almost 10 years of my career working for a non-profit as a professional fundraiser.  During my time with Special Olympics Louisiana I was a part of their Katrina recovery which gave me a lot of insight on what it’s like to be hands on in a disaster situation.  It’s overwhelming to know where to start.  You want to go and help but that isn’t always an option.  Sometimes you are in a position to just be able to send things and I am writing this in hopes to guide you on how to give.

Money before things.  When Katrina happened we were inundated at Special Olympics with calls about how to send clothes.  With so many people displaced it was hard to know how we would even be able to get the items to the ones in need.  In the end we were able to take some of the donations and use them but we tried to be smart about when and what we took.  While there is going to be a need for donations of clothes and shoes and housewares this is not the time.  Oftentimes the additional influx of donations can cause more trouble than help. Shelters may have to pull volunteer resources to help with all of the items that are coming in which can hurt their ability to meet more pressing needs.  I heard a great quote the other day by a disaster recovery volunteer, “a men’s medium shirt will always be a men’s medium shirt but a gift card can be everything to a person who has lost it all.”  In the immediate donations of money and gift cards are the best things do send.

Unless there is a specific list.  So my above comments are true unless you are given specific items that are needed.  Whe I was working for Special Olympics Louisiana we were trying to send athletes to games shortly after Hurricane Katrina.  We developed a list of things that we needed for them to be able to attend plus funding for the actual trip.  It was easy for us to get the items we needed because we were specific in the ask.  Currently the Humane Society is passing around a list of items that are immediate needs for them.  In this instance a physical donation of dog food or other items is ok.  Also, places like the diaper bank will need boxes of diapers and wipes.  Currently you can make cash donations to The Texas Diaper Bank and they will use the money to get diapers and other essentials.

Think past the immediate.  After Katrina the state started pulling a lot of non-profits yearly funding so they could use the money for other needs.  Obviously this was understandable but the truth was the non-profits met a need in the community and needed to continue on.  Many if us know from our experience after Katrina and the Baton Rouge floods this past year that needs go well beyond the first week or first month after the disaster.  Long after the media stops covering the story and the hype has ended.  Things you may not think about are people who won’t see any insurance money for months or non-profits who may lose portions of their funding due to the state using the resources for more pressing needs.  Keep your ear to the ground.  Don’t forget that the needs will keep coming long after CNN has stopped covering the disaster.

Where is your heart pulling you.  People always want to help but sometimes its overwhelming thinking about where to give your money.  The truth is we all have a certain amount that we are able to give and we want to know that it is helping and being used correctly.  I have always told people to give where their heart is leading them.  If you love animals give to the Human Society.  If you are a person who has a heart for children try the diaper bank.  Elderly?  Try the Council on Aging.  Business?  Call the local Chamber of Commerce.  The bottom line is in situations like this everyone will need some type of help.  Don’t let the overwhelming nature of what is happening deter you from giving.

I don’t have a lot to give.  Doesn’t matter.  I know you have heard it one million times but this is a situation where every single dollar counts. Don’t think about how your $5 will do something for something in need.  Just give it.  Know that you $5 will be combined with other people’s $5 or $20 and together that is going to change peoples lives.

Where can you give…

There are many great places to donate and many worthy causes.  Please do not be offended if I didn’t include something that is dear to your heart.

The Texas Diaper Bank

Houston Humane Society

Junior League of Houston

Church of the King Katy

I hope that this gives you some direction in where to give your resources.  This will be a long process just like Katrina was for Louisiana.  Please consider giving somewhere…  anywhere!

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