The Measuring the State of Disaster Philanthropy 2016: Data to Drive Decisions webinar on November 17, 2016, launched the updated report and interactive tools in a presentation on how to use data to make strategic, informed disaster-related giving decisions.

Hosted by Foundation Center and the Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP), the webinar discussion was led by CDP President and CEO Bob Ottenhoff and Foundation Center Vice President for Knowledge Services Larry McGill.

The annual analysis of funding for disasters and humanitarian crises is made possible with generous support from the Irene W. and C.B. Pennington Foundation.

Watch the webinar recording and review the summary below to learn more about recovery challenges and opportunities.

Webinar Summary

At below-average frequency in 2014, disasters still resulted in over 7,800 fatalities, affected 140.8 million people, and caused $99.2 billion in damages. And while disasters shock us, they shouldn’t surprise us. Given the inevitability of disasters, it’s imperative for funders to make use of their dollars in the most effective way possible. To help funders understand how to mitigate impact and build more resilient communities, the discussion focused on answering the following key questions.

How did the funding community respond to disasters?
Taking into account both large foundations and smaller, regional foundations, as well as public charities and international foundations, we documented more than $300 million in giving from foundations in 2014, an increase over the amount tracked in 2013. However, the number of grants and the number of foundations making investments decreased dramatically in 2014.

How does the foundation response to disasters fit into the larger landscape of giving?
Responding to disasters is an enormous task that no single sector can accomplish on its own. It’s clear that foundations bring substantial resources to the table. At the same time, across all sectors we found $22.5 billion in giving. By far the largest flows of aid for disasters and humanitarian crises come from governments. For example, FEMA—the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency—distributed $2.1 billion in grants in 2014. Thus, it is imperative that the larger network of government, private, and corporate donors build partnerships that can help maximize and leverage limited dollars.

What can funders do to become more effective in their disaster-related giving?
Response and relief is just part of a larger picture that takes the full disaster life cycle into account. The full life cycle of disasters encompasses, on the front end, risk reduction, mitigation, preparedness and resilience efforts that can minimize the economic and human losses associated with disasters, and on the back end, recovery and reconstruction efforts that can help communities rebuild and thrive following the devastation of disasters.

There are opportunities for philanthropists to be less reactive and more strategic in their disaster-related investments. While few, if any foundations consider themselves to be “disaster philanthropists,” all foundations will at some time or another find themselves facing the question of how best to respond when disasters occur. So, whether they know it or not, they will find themselves in the role of disaster philanthropist at some point. And like all other forms of philanthropy, a strategic approach is typically more effective than an ad hoc approach.

For more information, please see the 2016 State of Disaster Philanthropy.