As we approach the end of 2017, I look back with gratitude for the amazing generosity of millions of Americans who supported the Center for Disaster Philanthropy and the many other nonprofit organizations working in disaster related activities. I am in awe of the grueling, difficult, and often life-threatening services so many volunteers provided to rescue people from harm’s way and help return communities back to normal. I am inspired by their acts of big heartedness and courage.

Puerto Ricans take refuge at the Roberto Clemente Coliseum in San Juan ahead of Hurricane Maria on Sept. 19. Hector Retamal / AFP - Getty Images
Puerto Ricans take refuge at the Roberto Clemente Coliseum in San Juan ahead of Hurricane Maria. Credit: Hector Retamal / AFP Getty Images

All of us at CDP feel honored, with a deep sense of responsibility, that so many of you have entrusted your disaster contributions to CDP for wise and strategic investments. We are deeply engaged in learning about those affected by disasters in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and many other places. We will begin disbursing your contributions early in 2018, and we will provide regular updates on our progress.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), for the first nine months of this year, there were 15 disasters in the United States that caused more than $1 billion in damage. That included: two floods, one freeze, seven severe storms, three hurricanes, one drought, and several wildfires. But in a year full of disasters, these are just the biggest.

There were actually 14 named storms, including five major hurricanes. There were nearly 1400 tornadoes. More than 300 people were killed. As our Midwest Early Recovery Fund has taught us, there are hundreds of disasters each year affecting Americans that have no name, nor receive a FEMA disaster designation.

This year has also reminded us that we share a mutual commitment with many partners, donors, and clients to make disaster philanthropy more effective. I find great delight in knowing we are a part of a large, and growing community of remarkable donors and practitioners who recognize we can do better to maximize the impact of disaster philanthropy.

Where will we go from here?

  • Will 2018 be the year we begin seriously considering disasters before they occur?
  • Will this be the year we see massive investments in planning and preparation?
  • Will we begin taking land use planning more seriously, prohibiting development in flood prone areas and altering our current home insurance programs?
  • Will we require every state to develop long-term recovery plans?
  • Will we address the long-term impact of rising seas levels rather than treating this as a temporary challenge?
  • Will we commit to long-term recovery that builds stronger, more resilient communities?
  • Will we focus more attention on vulnerable populations before and after disasters?

These and many more issues are all part of transforming disaster philanthropy and making your contributions more strategic and impactful. We owe this to the thousands of people who will be affected by disasters.

On behalf of all us here at CDP, we appreciate your support and the confidence you have placed in us this year. We look forward to working together with you in 2018.