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Philanthropies Doubled Their Disaster-Related Funding in 2017

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Private foundations, public charities, corporate giving programs and individual donors contributed $45 billion for disaster relief and humanitarian crises in 2017, according to a new report from the Center for Disaster Philanthropy and Candid, a merger of Foundation Center and GuideStar.

Global disasters in 2017 included magnitude 7.1 and 8.1 earthquakes that struck Mexico within two weeks of each other. Famines in Africa and civil unrest in Yemen and Syria led to a surge in the number of refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced people.

In the U.S., 2017 was the costliest year of natural disasters on record, according to the report, with wildfires in California and Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.

The CDP’s annual report identified $504 million in funding by foundations and public charities for disasters and humanitarian crises, based on Candid’s database, which includes transactions by U.S. and non-U.S. donors.

The analysis showed that disaster-related funding doubled from 2016, based on a year-over-year analysis of grantmaking by 1,000 of the biggest U.S. foundations.

Natural disasters accounted for 65% of disaster funding, half of it going to storms and many donors responding to the three big hurricanes.

Among disaster assistance strategies, 64% of funding went to response and relief efforts, and 17% toward reconstruction and recovery. But just 2% each was allocated for resilience measures and disaster-preparedness measures.

“The data confirms that philanthropy responded generously in a year of devastating disasters in the U.S.,” Grace Sato, Candid’s director of global projects and partnerships, said in a statement.

“It also highlights funding gaps and opportunities for donors to give more strategically in areas — like disaster preparedness and long-term recovery — that are typically underfunded.”

Thirty government members of the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee contributed a total of $21 billion of development assistance for disasters and humanitarian crises in 2017, about $1.4 billion more than in 2016. Non-DAC government donors and multilateral organizations chipped in an additional $1.9 billion.

The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency distributed $15.6 billion for domestic disasters in 2017, up $11.9 billion for the previous year. The Department of Housing and Urban Development allocated $2.7 billion in recovery efforts.

Corporate giving programs committed some $275.4 million to disasters and humanitarian crises, through both cash and in-kind donations, the report said, citing available data.

Individual Donors

Candid, CDP and the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy in a survey of U.S. households found that 31% made disaster-related donations in 2017, averaging $80.

The report said that by inference, American donors may have donated as much as $3 billion to disaster aid efforts that year.

Donors found a variety of ways to contribute. The report said individuals gave $60 million through donor-advised funds managed by Fidelity Charitable, and $20.2 million through Vanguard Charitable DAFs.

Other individual donors used online platforms, such as Network for Good and GlobalGiving, to make their contributions. Network for Good helped direct $12.5 million in donations to nonprofits focused on disaster in 2017.

GlobalGiving raised $27.6 million for disasters. These contributions supported 243 projects by 169 organizations.

“While it is gratifying to note the significant funding in response to the major disasters that marked 2017, we know that two years later, communities impacted are still working hard to recover,” the CDP’s president and chief executive Robert Ottenhoff said in the statement.

“Thus, it is concerning that funding for recovery has seen no change over the previous year. The increasing intensity of weather-related disasters demonstrates the impact of our changing climate and the need to support efforts to build stronger, more resilient communities.”


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