Disaster Giving Topped $100 Million in 2012

December 10, 2014       Zach Halper      

Foundations made 884 grants totaling $111 million for disaster relief during 2012, according to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy’s newly-released Measuring the State of Disaster Philanthropy Report.

Published in conjunction with the Foundation Center, the report is the first in what the Center is planning to be an annual look at disaster relief efforts in the United States. According to Robert G. Ottenhoff, president and CEO of the center, it is also believed to be the first ever report of its kind on the subject. Work began on the Report approximately one year ago.

Data for the State of Disaster Philanthropy Report was gathered from a variety of different sources, according to Ottenhoff. For grants data, the organization looked at all grants of $10,000 or more reported by 1,000 of the largest U.S. Foundations. For categorizing types of disasters, the research team studied 15 disaster taxonomies, drawing most heavily upon the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) Creditor Reporting System and the Centre for Research
on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) taxonomy to develop the framework for the project

The report begins its look at disaster philanthropy by examining data from 2012, the first year of data that was available according to Ottenhoff.

Noted in the report were 310 disasters worldwide, including Superstorm Sandy, wildfires in Colorado, drought conditions in West Africa, and flooding in Thailand. Of all of these disasters, the most foundation grants were given for what were termed as natural disasters (58 percent or $64.93 million). Only 2 percent of grants ($2.08 million) were given for man-made accidents.

In terms of overall strategy for giving, data indicated that foundations chose to contribute the majority of their resources to response and relief efforts. Specifically, 46.2 percent of donations ($51.5 million) and 53.4 percent of grants (472) were given to these types of efforts. Comparatively, the next highest amount of support was given to reconstruction and recovery efforts — 11.3 percent of donations ($12.6 million) and 20.0 percent of grants (177).

One of the most significant natural disasters that occurred during 2012 was Superstorm Sandy, which wreaked havoc across the east coast and as far west as Ohio. Research conducted by the Foundation Center in partnership with the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, Philanthropy New York, and the Council of New Jersey Grantmakers, found that donors contributed more than $380 million for disaster relief, significantly more than the $111 million cited by the State of Disaster Philanthropy Report. Ottenhoff explains this disparity by clarifying that the data from the report is an “underestimate” of all philanthropic commitments in 2012. Comparatively, the Hurricane Sandy Report did a deep dive into funding over multiple years — from the end of the storm through June 2014.

Ottenhoff said that that his organization plans to release the next edition of the State of Disaster Philanthropy Report in 2015, and that it would cover data from 2013 and 2014. He also said they plan to release an online tool in Q1 or Q2 of 2015 that will allow organizations to contribute information about how they handle philanthropic giving.

“We’re hoping we will be able to engage the philanthropic community in self-reporting,” he said.

Other key takeaways from the Report include:

  • Approximately three out of five grant dollars (62 percent) addressed human service needs related to disasters;
  • Disasters receiving the most U.S. television news coverage in the past 26 years were the attacks of September 11, 2001, the Oklahoma City federal building bombing, and Hurricane Katrina;
  • Giving is often influenced by media coverage, which tends to focus on acute and telegenic disasters; and,
  • The majority of grant dollars targeted disasters in North America (62 percent). Countries in Asia received 16 percent, and countries in Africa received 13 percent.

You can access the full version of the Measuring the State of Disaster Philanthropy Report at http://disasterphilanthropy.org/