After Disasters, Financial Donations Are the Lifeblood of Relief Organizations

After Disasters, Financial Donations Are the Lifeblood of Relief Organizations

November 19, 2018

November 19, 2018 - After a disaster, many of us want to help. Not all help after a disaster is equal, though, particularly when it comes to donations. As this year’s hurricane season ends, communities impacted by Hurricanes Michael and Florence, and Super Typhoon Yutu, are navigating the long path to recovery. At the same time, communities ravaged by wildfires in California are still straddling the line of response and recovery. It is important to remember that in nearly all of these communities, best way to help is through donations of money or time, as these go the farthest in helping to meet the true needs of survivors.

We and other relief organizations make this point, particularly as the holiday season begins, because we see every year it is important to channel people’s best intentions, especially since the needs are so great. After emergencies, it is common for people who feel compelled to help to send what they can, or send what they have, operating under the assumption that people who have lost everything ‘might need it’ or ‘could use it.’ This phenomenon of the public sending well-intended but unsolicited donations of goods like clothes and food in lieu of cash or their time is so common it even has a name – the “Second Disaster.” This term is aptly named, as these donations are unneeded, usually unwanted, and often create more work for relief workers with already full plates.

In fact, the resounding consensus among our partners, from non-governmental disaster response organizations to government entities, including FEMA, is that cash donations offer far greater flexibility and are the most sensible and efficient way to support relief efforts. This is true for several reasons:

  • Cash donations are likely to be spent in the affected areas, breathing new life into the economies of recovering areas. Cash can also be used to sustain critical programs, services and relief efforts that are actively assisting those in need, such as Rx Open.


  • Most, if not all, of our National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (VOAD) partners have preexisting agreements with suppliers which allow them to purchase the exact supplies needed by the victims, often in bulk and for wholesale prices. Relief operations and the needs of affected individuals are typically a moving target, with demand for certain supplies often evolving at a rate that can be met more specifically and with greater efficiency through cash donations. National VOAD partners and other NGOs work in close coordination to use resources efficiently as well, alerting one another of surplus supplies or strategically positioning their resources and services to complement one another, for example.


When working with our partners in volunteer relief organizations during an activation, Healthcare Ready sees the value that these organizations and their workers bring when they are operating continually and efficiently. Cash gifts or the donation of time and manpower ensure this continuity and give relief organizations the flexibility to sustain their efforts and utilize their expertise in adapting to evolving needs of victims. We would not be able to support patients and connect them back to care during and after disasters without donations from individuals and private partners alike. Donations allow us to provide Rx Open to the public at no cost, staff our hotline to field patient calls for assistance, and work with NGO and private sector partners alike to match donations of medicines and medical supplies to the communities that need them the most.

This holiday season consider volunteering or sending a cash gift to support one of the many ongoing relief efforts nationwide. A donation to Healthcare Ready supports our mission of connecting patients and communities back to healthcare after a disaster, and strengthening them for the next disaster.

Sarah Baker, MPP

Sarah Baker is the Programs Director at Healthcare Ready. In this capacity, she leads the policy development, research, and programmatic efforts to the organization's preparedness initiatives. Prior to joining Healthcare Ready, Sarah served as a consultant to the Department of Homeland Security and a variety of private sector organizations, during which time she supported the design, conduct, and evaluation of scores of preparedness exercises. Sarah received her Masters in Public Policy from Georgetown University's McCourt School of Public Policy and holds a B.A. degree from the University of Notre Dame.