Here’s How to Donate Supplies, Money or Time After a Natural Disaster

volunteers in a line passing a box of donated shoes
Volunteers move boxes of shoes donated by Mythiquer Pickett for students affected by Hurricane Harvey on at the Delmar Field House in Houston on Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017. Matt Rourke/AP Photo

Our world is not lacking in natural disasters. In any given month, communities are experiencing or cleaning up from a hurricane, flood, earthquake or other unexpected event.

Whether watching events unfold from near or far, many people have a natural inclination to provide compassionate assistance in any way they can.

But it can be difficult to decide where to donate supplies, money or boots-on-the-ground labor where it will do the most good.

Here are some resources to help you decide.

How to Donate Supplies

People in disaster-stricken areas almost always need food, water and other basic supplies. But each disaster also brings its own set of unique needs based on the type and duration of the event, how much time residents had to prepare and how badly the disaster impacted the community’s infrastructure.

“Generally after a disaster, people with loving intentions donate things that cannot be used in a disaster response, and in fact may actually be harmful,” Juanita Rilling, former director of the Center for International Disaster Information told CBS News. “And they have no idea that they’re doing it.”

Here’s what to do instead:

  • Check the affected area’s official website and Facebook page for information. Local officials often post lists of supplies victims and relief workers need most.
  • Check with the area’s local food bank to see whether it’s accepting food deliveries.
  • Look around your house for unused medical equipment like CPAP machines and wheelchairs. Type the item’s name and “donate to disaster victims” to find out where to send your donation.

How to Donate Money

Several national and international organizations accept financial donations to assist with specific disasters.

Be sure to do your homework before donating money to a relief fund. These independent watchdog groups provide insight into the reputations of charitable foundations and how contributions are spent.

Groups That Provide Local and International Disaster Assistance

These organizations provide disaster assistance to stricken areas:

Groups that Provide Specific Types of Disaster Assistance  

These groups provide disaster aid for animals, children and people who need or want specific types of assistance:

  • Goonj: Assistance for disasters that occur in India.
  • Portlight: Disaster assistance for people with disabilities.
  • Support the Girls: Bras and feminine hygiene products for people in disaster-affected locations .

How to Donate Time and Labor

If you plan to donate time and labor after a future event, consider taking the free disaster training course though the American Red Cross to understand how communities are affected by disasters and how they recover.

Here are some organizations to connect with if you want to help out in person in the wake of a disaster. Note: Some of these opportunities require volunteers to meet certain eligibility requirements.

Lisa McGreevy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. Follow her on Twitter @lisah.