When a disaster hits, Americans are eager to open their wallets to help. Unfortunately they get lots of chances. In a typical recent year there were 300 major natural calamities worldwide, causing 10,000 deaths and $180 billion in damages. Yet donors often have no clear idea of what happens to their contributions or whether they are used in the best ways possible.
Recently, the Center for Disaster Philanthropy teamed up with Foundation Center to try to help the major donors who often lead disaster recoveries improve the targeting of their help. Their 2014 report, Measuring the State of Disaster Philanthropy, looks at 884 grants totaling $111 million made by foundations like Gates, Cargill, Rockefeller, Moore, Lilly, and Hilton that are among the most bountiful disaster-relievers.
Funded by Lori Bertman and the Pennington Foundation, the report looked at 2012 disasters from Hurricane Sandy to droughts, avalanches, earthquakes, monsoons, and typhoons worldwide. The broader categories included not only natural disasters, such as weather emergencies, but also manmade accidents and complex humanitarian emergencies.
The majority of this funding was for natural disasters. Almost half was given in relief efforts, with the rest going to things like recovery, reconstruction, and preparedness. The report is part of a larger initiative to track disaster-response dollars. An online data platform will be launched in late 2015, adding more “tools to the toolbox” of foundations that want to act in response to dire human need.