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

Volunteers place donated water bottles onto pallets.
Volunteers place water bottles onto pallets outside the Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Oct. 15, 2018. The Rays collected donations for those affected by Hurricane Michael in the Panhandle. Aileen Perilla/The Penny Hoarder

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 to Disaster Relief Efforts

Although donating immediately after a disaster strikes, remember that charities must operate year round, and when the news cameras leave to chase the next disaster, the victims left behind still need assistance. Whatever your donation, consider spreading it out over the course of a year (or more). Here are a few ways to help.

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.

Pro Tip

Stick with giving to recognized charities rather than crowdfunding efforts. Even if they aren’t scams, the amatuer efforts may do more harm than good if they get in the way of organized efforts.

“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.
  • Give blood.

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 specific types of disaster assistance:

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 through 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 have volunteer eligibility requirements.

Lisa McGreevy is a former staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.