Posts Tagged ‘Disaster Relief’

Assessing the Scale and Impact of Disaster Philanthropy

Friday, November 13th, 2015
Monitoring Disaster Philanthropy

Monitoring Disaster Philanthropy

The Center for Disaster Philanthropy has published the second edition of Measuring the State of Disaster Philanthropy 2015: Data to Drive Decisions along with online tools, including a dashboard and an interactive funding map. The online tools enable users to monitor contributions to support relief by disaster type, disaster assistance strategy and geographic areas impacted. The report and the online tools aim to help donors, government agencies, news media and other stakeholders understand the scale and scope of global disaster-related philanthropy. This information can inform more effective philanthropy by avoiding duplication of efforts and misuse of scarce resources.

According to Measuring the State of Disaster Philanthropy 2015, a total of $27.6 billion was given in response to disasters and humanitarian crises in 2013. Most of that sum was directed towards immediate response and relief efforts. While the largest share of the total was contributed by government donors and agencies, with the U.S. Federal Emergency Agency alone accounting for $11 billion, the report also found that the largest thousand U.S. foundations awarded $116.9 million, with an additional $60.1 million provided by smaller foundations, public charities, and international foundations. Outside the U.S., aid from the twenty-nine members of the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee totaled $13.6 billion, while another $2.4 billion was awarded by other donors and multilateral organizations.

The Center for Disaster Philanthropy is to be commended for collecting, analyzing and publishing this data, as it informs strategic decision making and may increase the effectiveness of disaster relief aid. However, and this bears repeating, it is a better use of funds to prevent and mitigate disasters than to respond to them. The challenge is that disaster mitigation efforts can be more difficult to assess and donors do not have the same visibility for such efforts as they do for the powerful (and generous) work of providing relief.

Texas Experiences the Worst Drought in Its History

Thursday, March 26th, 2009
Post-Katrina, Less Bureaucratic Pencil-Pushing

Post-Katrina, Less Bureaucratic Pencil-Pushing

According to a statement issued by the Office of the Governor of Texas, Governor Rick Perry “requested that the U.S. Department of Agriculture provide disaster relief assistance for Texas farms and ranches that have suffered economic and physical losses as a result of severe drought conditions. If Perry’s statewide request is approved, qualified farm operators in all Texas counties will be eligible for low-interest emergency loans from the USDA. The agency also offers additional programs, such as technical assistance, to eligible farmers.” This is most severe drought on record, affecting Texas Hill Country in the South-Central part of the State from San Antonio and Austin; 60% of the beef cows in Texas are in the counties with conditions defined as “severe to exceptional drought”. This only adds to the pain of businesses that have already suffered losses from the economic recession. Texas is the country’s largest cattle-producing state and has already lost close to $1 billion because of the continuing drought.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, extreme drought conditions also exist across other areas of Texas and much of the southwestern United States, threatening water supplies and farmers in rapidly-growing urban areas. In California, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a statewide drought emergency, urging local communities to impose conservation measures to reduce water consumption by 20 percent.

For small-scale farmers, the government assistance programs can be confusing. The Small Business Administration (“SBA”) does not underwrite agricultural loans. For the purposes of SBA’s 7(a) program, a small farm may be considered a small business, but for the purpose of the Economic Injury Disaster Loan, it is not. After Hurricane Katrina, the U.S. Department of Agriculture had to re-write its rules so that it could respond to the needs of small-scale farmers, particularly in the aftermath of a major disaster. It would certainly make government programs more efficient and transparent if the agencies could develop uniform applications.

Deadliest Disaster in Australian History

Sunday, February 15th, 2009

One week ago, more than 400 fast-moving fires, some of which appear to have been set deliberately, moved through Victoria, Australia killing more than 180 people in the most fatal disaster in that country’s history. The fires destroyed more than 1,800 homes leaving more than 7,000 people homeless. More than 4,000 firefighters continue to fight nine fires still blazing in their area, with their ranks supplemented with firefighters flown in from both New Zealand and the United States. In an effort to count the casualties, a team of Indonesian experts who had helped to identify bodies after the Bali bombings and the 2005 tsunami has gone to Australia. The Australian Red Cross has launched a fundraising appeal to help the victims of the fires and has established a website where you can make a secure online donation with your credit card.

The Clock is Ticking

Monday, February 9th, 2009
Time is running out

Time is Running Out

As is sadly the case with longer-term, chronic disaster relief needs, out of sight is often out of mind. According to the Houston Chronicle, donations supporting recovery efforts in the Texas Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike are dwindling. The United Way of Greater Houston had raised close to $6 million for its hurricane efforts. It has stopped raising funds and is currently focused on longer-term human service needs.  The Gulf Coast Ike Fund expects that by March it will have distributed all of the close to $12 million it has raised for emergency and short-term needs and will close its doors. The Bush-Clinton Coastal Recovery Fund is the only remaining entity still actively raising funds; however, its aid assistance focuses on rebuilding public infrastructure, not on the needs of families and small businesses. Charitable giving to support disaster relief efforts for Hurricane Ike was hindered by the timing of the financial crisis, with Lehman Brothers filing for bankruptcy two days after Ike struck the Gulf Coast. With the financial markets in crisis, charitable giving across all sectors has slowed, although the needs remain acute.

To help address these needs, I will be partnering with chapters of the American Red Cross to speak at events at Borders Bookstores in their local communities, with 10% of all sales during those time periods to be donated to the Red Cross. These events will take place in March, National Red Cross Month. As the dates are confirmed, I will post them on this site.

Get Some Breathing Room

Thursday, October 2nd, 2008

With all of the reports in the news about the difficulties small businesses face in accessing credit, the bigger story is overlooked. Many small businesses contract with the federal government for net payment terms of 30 days on submission of an approved invoice. The federal government is stretching its payments out to 140 – 150 days, in effect, extracting interest-free financing from small business suppliers. Even worse, if the small business is the prime contractor, it must pay its sub-contractors even before it receives payment from the federal government. The Fortune-500 are also stretching out payments, although not to that extreme. Being an unwilling creditor is a more serious problem than being unable to access credit.

And with that happy thought, I would like to suggest that residents in the Houston-Galveston area in the wake of Ike begin to negotiate longer payment terms, reductions in interest rates or any other forbearance that they can with their creditors. In disaster recovery mode, everything takes longer than you think it will. Try to negotiate some breathing room for yourself while the powerful images of the disaster give you some negotiating leverage or sympathy. It is better to negotiate early in the process then when your accounts go into arrears and blemishes start to appear on your credit report. And it will reduce your stress level.

Dodging a Bullet, But Still Suffering

Thursday, September 11th, 2008
Appreciation from the Red Cross

Appreciation from the Red Cross

Having feared the worst, residents of Louisiana got a reprieve, of sorts, when Hurricane Gustav did not leave a trail of devastation comparable to that of Hurricane Katrina. This has caused problems of another kind; Gustav is still a serious disaster and residents in the affected areas are in need of assistance. But charitable giving has not kept pace with the need, in part because of distorted perceptions from catastrophizing risk. The fact that Gustav was not as powerful as Katrina offers little comfort to Louisiana residents living in emergency shelters until their power and other services are restored and they can safely return home. To meet the needs of those who have been displaced by Gustav, the Red Cross has taken on debt, in the hope that donor contributions are on the way (that report from the Washington Post).

On the occasion of my most recent visit to New Orleans, I was surprised with a Certificate of Appreciation from the Gulf Coast Recovery Director of the American Red Cross. This was an acknowledgement of the contributions that my own small business has consistently made over the past few years. I am currently working out the details of a promotion in which profits on the sale of my book will assist disaster relief efforts. I urge other small businesses to join in; helping the relief efforts is not only a worthwhile thing to do, it can be effective team and skill building for your own organization. This has been a tough year in the United States for major natural disasters; in addition, to a severe hurricane season, we have had tornadoes in the southern states, floods in the midwestern states and wildfires in California. The need is certainly there.