Key Findings

Disasters, by definition, are unplanned and generally unpredictable, but disaster-related giving should be anything but haphazard. Data from 2014 show that philanthropy is primarily focused on funding immediate response and relief efforts. But we know from experience that effective allocation of donor dollars is critical, not just while a disaster is underway, but well beforehand, through disaster risk management and preparedness, and also in the long term, as individuals, families, and communities undergo the painstaking work of rebuilding.

This great need for a shift in commitment to disaster planning, prevention, and long-term recovery is what drives us to aggregate and analyze data about global disaster philanthropy. Our goal for this annual analysis is not to eliminate disasters, since that is impossible, but to help funders work better together to mitigate the impact of disasters and to build stronger, more resilient communities.

In 2014, the world was slow to respond when stories about an Ebola outbreak in West Africa first appeared. At the outset, nearly all aid that trickled in came from multilateral organizations. A complicated crisis a continent away failed, initially, to motivate U.S. donors. However, as the disease continued to spread and increased U.S. media coverage brought greater awareness of the scale and impact of the outbreak, there was a surge of philanthropic support.

Most Ebola-related funding in 2014 went toward immediate response and relief efforts, through cash contributions and also donations of medical supplies and equipment. We were heartened to learn about investments in Ebola research and prevention (and an initial glimpse at 2015 funding bears this out)—funding that will ultimately have a longer-term impact.

From the data available, large U.S. foundations and corporations donated nearly $300 million for disasters in 2014, an increase over the amount tracked in 2013. Yet this generous number pales in comparison to distributions by FEMA and members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Development Assistance Committee. The mosaic of funders giving toward disasters is vast and diverse, and the data highlight the need for better cooperation and coordination among all organizations and sectors.

The numbers are clear: We can no longer afford to wait for disaster to strike to begin to act. Philanthropy’s current crisis-driven, episodic approach is insufficient and unsustainable. We can and should use this data to become more intentional and more collaborative disaster-related philanthropists.

Key findings from our 2014 analysis include the following:

  • Drawing upon multiple data sources, we documented $22.5 billion in disaster-related giving in 2014. The Ebola outbreak dominated funding from foundations, corporations, and individuals, whereas bilateral and multilateral aid was largely directed to complex humanitarian emergencies.
  • Grants awarded by 1,000 of the largest U.S. foundations totaled $225.7 million, nearly twice the amount distributed in 2013. While funding increased in terms of grant dollars, fewer grants were distributed in 2014 by fewer funders than in years prior.
  • Addressing the Ebola crisis generated the most investments from large U.S. foundations (70 percent of funding). The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation made significant contributions toward the outbreak.
  • The majority of total funding (73 percent) targeted immediate response and relief efforts.
  • In addition to large U.S. foundations, a review of Foundation Center’s broader database identified an additional $97 million in funding by smaller foundations, public charities, and international foundations.
  • FEMA, the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency, distributed $2.1 billion in grants and assistance for domestic disasters in 2014. This was far less than the more than $11 billion distributed in 2013, when the country was recovering from the effects of Hurricane Sandy.
  • Official development assistance by 29 government members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Development Assistance Committee totaled $16.5 billion for disasters and humanitarian crises. Non-DAC government donors and multilateral organizations contributed an additional $3.5 billion.
  • Based on available data, corporate giving programs donated at least $62.3 million to disasters and humanitarian crises, as both cash and in-kind donations.
  • Individual donors contributed $7.8 million through donor-advised funds managed by Fidelity Charitable.
  • Network for Good helped direct $18.8 million in donations for disasters and humanitarian crises, with an average gift of $111 per donor. GlobalGiving raised $3.8 million from a mix of individual and organizational donors, supporting 107 projects by 90 organizations.

Each year, we aim to shed more light on funding for disasters and humanitarian crises, with increasingly comprehensive data. We invite donors to share their data and also to learn more about how to make their disaster-related contributions more effective and impactful. For more information, visit the Get Involved page.

Measuring the State of Disaster Philanthropy 2016: Data to Drive Decisions

Measuring the State of Disaster Philanthropy 2016: Data to Drive Decisions

CDP, through a generous lead gift from The Irene W. and C.B. Pennington Foundation, worked with Foundation Center to establish baseline data, aggregate multiple data streams, and track disaster giving globally.

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