Reflections on 2018: Gratitude, Hope and Optimism

You might think that focusing on disasters and encountering the consequences of destructive events day after day would be disturbing, and even depressing. Yet those of us who work here at the Center for Disaster Philanthropy face these realities with a sense of gratitude and optimism.
As we reflect on 2018, we do so with true gratification. We are grateful for the inspiring generosity of thousands of donors who gave from their hearts to help those recovering from Hurricanes Michael and Florence and the terrible wildfires in California. We feel invigorated by a deep sense of obligation to make a difference through thoughtful, strategic investments as part of our strong partnerships with many foundations and corporations. We feel admiration for the many nonprofit professionals who risk personal safety and experience challenging conditions to provide desperately needed services. And most of all, we feel a deep sense of compassion and awe for everyone struggling to regain a normal life after surviving heartbreaking and often tragic disasters. We hope that 2019 will bring them safety, security and peace of mind.
So it helps to know what we do matters. Repairs and rebuilds in Texas, Florida and the Midwest; psychosocial support for Syrian refugee children; food security and mental health care for vulnerable populations in Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands – these are some snapshots of CDP’s grants in action that give us the satisfaction of knowing our work is important and essential.
Overall this year we distributed $15.3 million in grants to more than 115 organizations to support recovery efforts across the nation and abroad in communities affected by hurricanes, flooding, wildfires, earthquakes, tornadoes and man-made disasters.
We started off the year focused on responding to the triple whammy of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria which occurred in late 2017.  As the year progressed, we were confronted with another trio of major disasters, this time Hurricanes Florence and Michael plus a wave of firestorms in California. Donors responded with over $2 million in contributions to our CDP 2018 Atlantic Hurricane Season Recovery Fund to help those in need from Florence and Michael and over $500,000 to our CDP California Wildfires Recovery Fund. Meanwhile, our programs with the Midwest Early Recovery Fund and the Louisiana Disaster Recovery Alliance responded to the low-attention disasters that don’t make headlines but still significantly affect the lives of many people.
Unfortunately, we expect 2019 to be another year full of natural disasters across the globe. So why are we still optimistic? For one, we continue to be amazed at the generosity of donors and volunteers and appreciate their determination to make things better. Two, we sense a movement beginning among the donor community to new approaches in disaster-related giving that is more intentional and thoughtful. As you think about your philanthropic commitments for 2019, we hope you will consider strategic investments in disaster philanthropy that help us address the full arc of disasters – from planning, preparation and mitigation, to long-term recovery and resilient communities.
We wish you a safe and satisfying new year.

Robert G. Ottenhoff

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