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Disaster Philanthropy: Reactive Giving Isn't Enough to Rebuild a Community

With several news outlets calling Hurricane Sandy the “Perfect Storm,” it’s natural to want to help. Photographs of flooded subways and blacked-out skylines have overtaken Twitter feeds, Facebook timelines, and televisions, and even in far-away San Francisco, amidst World Series celebrations, front pages display the destruction. Providing aid through monetary donations is increasingly easy; the Red Cross set up a text-to-donate number and Apple enabled users to donate via iTunes.

In the wake of the disaster, reactional giving has the potential to bring in millions, if not billions of dollars to support relief efforts. Over $1 billion was raised in response to the gulf coast hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. In addition to private support for Sandy, companies such as the NFL, Disney and Target have pledged millions, and NBC is hosting a telethon featuring Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi this Friday to support the Red Cross. Even the cast of Jersey Shore, most known for spray tans and hair gel, has pledged to aid in rebuilding the New Jersey coastline. According to the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, nearly one-third of all post-disaster giving will come within four weeks, two-thirds will occur within two months and in six months, nearly all giving will end. How will our communities continue to rebuild after six months?

While reactive giving provides necessary capital for relief organizations, it is only part of disaster philanthropy. Proactive philanthropy for disaster relief organizations allows for better precautionary planning and earlier mobilization. It also provides the sustained support necessary to fund multi-year rebuilding efforts. Thoughtful, educated giving not only ensures that the needs of Hurricane Sandy victims are met, but that aid organizations are in a better position the next time disaster strikes. When Sandy coverage dwindles, don’t forget how you feel today. Set up a calendar reminder for six months from now to reassess the relief needs and provide extra-needed support when new stories flood the front page. The One Percent Foundation believes in thoughtful, sustainable giving that includes both short-term and long-term focus and seeks to educate Millennials about impactful philanthropy.

Don’t get us wrong, reactive donations are extremely helpful and enable organizations to provide the help millions of Americans need. If you, like other Millennials, prefer to support smaller nonprofits on the ground, check out Team Rubicon. TR deploys military veterans to crisis situations and responded to Sandy with Operation Greased Lighting, mobilizing over 100 veterans to the East Coast.

For more information about disaster philanthropy, visit the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.

The One Percent Foundation empowers young adults to become lifelong philanthropists by facilitating engaged, systematic, collective and values-driven giving and participation. Follow them on Twitter and on Facebook.

Image (cc) flickr user American Red Cross

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