Haiti - Photo by Yves Montoban

FEMA and the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) folks got together and created a brochure that’s designed to give the public some guidance on how to give their time and money during disasters. It’s the best piece I’ve seen yet that describes the needs and challenges of the organizations serving on the front lines of a major incident.

Here are a few of the highlights from the brochure that I especially like:

“CONFIRM WHAT IS NEEDED BEFORE TAKING ACTION! – The most effective way the public can assist is to support the experienced disaster relief organizations with either financial contributions or in-kind goods and services that the organization reports are needed.” The images of destruction we see on TV motivate us to act immediately, but before you begin collecting diapers and infant formula for disaster survivors in another country, make sure that the organization you want to support can accept the donation and use it to do good.

“USED CLOTHING IS RARELY A USEFUL ITEM TO COLLECT FOR DISASTER RELIEF. – Used clothing is rarely a useful item to collect and send into the disaster area because it is hard to clean, sort, pack, transport, store and distribute.” It’s simply not practical or cost effective to collect clothing items that need to be cleaned and then sorted by gender, age, season, etc., before being packed and shipped somewhere else to be distributed in disaster zone where roads and other infrastructure has been damaged. Sadly, managing clothing and other in-kind donations – often called the “disaster within a disaster – is difficult for relief organizations and takes their staff and volunteers off other, more pressing matters.

And finally, the best one of all: “FINANCIAL CONTRIBUTIONS ARE OFTEN THE BEST KIND OF DONATION TO MAKE. – When the public supports these voluntary organizations with financial contributions it helps ensure a steady flow of important services to the people in need after a disaster.” Well said! The organizations in direct contact with survivors know what they need and can respond to their changing environment quickly when they have the financial means to do so. And, buying supplies locally helps us boost the economy that’s often been hit hard by the effects of the disaster too.

From front to back, the brochure is extremely helpful! Click on the link below to read it or download a copy.

And, I encourage you to share the brochure with your donors, volunteers and partner organizations so they can be guided on how best to help when the next disaster strikes.

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