CDP is often asked to give examples of best practices among foundation grantmakers on their disaster-related giving. This paper summarizes one foundation’s efforts to analyze its disaster-related activities, survey literature throughout the international community, and explore ways to improve its disaster grantmaking.

In March 2012, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation engaged Dr. William M. Paton, a respected leader in the humanitarian response arena, “to apply an independent lens and help us study our work in the context 
of the international field of disaster response.” In this paper, they share the results of his documentation and an analysis of Hilton Foundation work and policies, as well as include his recommendations for future practice.

The paper opens with an overview of the main actors in disaster aid and how they work together and a review of principles, best practices, and codes of conduct for humanitarian assistance, including disasters.

The paper looks at the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation and its grantmaking for disasters. Following a brief description of its history and background, the work of
 the Foundation on disasters is described. From 1989 to 2011, the Hilton Foundation awarded grants worth $21.6 million for relief and recovery following disasters, both in 
the United States and around the world. From the 1980s until Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Foundation evolved policies over several iterations. Decisions of the Board to fund recovery as well as relief were not always easy to implement, nor were policies that favored loans for international disaster assistance, or which focused on micro-enterprise development. The policy continued to evolve in favor of grants, and with greater flexibility for the choice of sector.

The report notes that altogether, half of the value of domestic grants has been for relief, 44% for recovery and 6% for risk reduction. Internationally, 62% has been for relief and 38% for recovery. The paper calls for an even greater emphasis on recovery, compared to relief, and for investment in disaster risk reduction. It suggests giving no more than a third of support to each disaster for relief and at least a third for recovery. The remainder funding should go to disaster risk reduction that includes making small investments in program development and funding on-site coordination efforts; supporting unified planning; funding whatever sector is underfunded; and avoiding the supporting of donations of relief goods.

The paper notes that donations by private foundations and charitable donations in times of disaster are remarkably quick. Over a third of private giving is done in less than the first four weeks of a sudden disaster—such as Haiti’s 2010 earthquake or Hurricane Katrina in 2005—and two thirds within two months. However, this giving stops almost completely after five or six months.

A suggested ‘Best Practice Checklist’ for private foundations and disasters is provided in an annex.

Read the full paper here.