About the Disaster Philanthropy Playbook

Learn more about how the Playbook can help grantmakers, individual donors, philanthropy serving organizations and other community partners prepare for and respond to disasters.

Airmen, soldiers and civilians with the National Guard repair the home of Michelle Samuel in LaPlata, Md., during "National Rebuilding Day." (Photo by Tech. Sgt. Mike R. Smith, National Guard)

What is the Playbook?

 The Disaster Philanthropy Playbook (the Playbook) is a comprehensive resource of promising practices and innovative approaches to guide the philanthropic community in responding to future disasters. In particular, it helps philanthropic organizations and individual donors be more strategic with their investments and recognize the importance of supporting long-term recovery for marginalized and underserved populations.

There are many common issues faced by communities after a disaster. The Playbook is organized around these issues including housing, mental health, communications and working collaboratively with local government and FEMA. An informed philanthropic and nonprofit sector, armed with strategies that promote and protect human welfare, support community dialogue and hold government accountable, is absolutely central to an effective, efficient, equitable and fair recovery. These are all issues philanthropy has invested in after disasters and examples of this work can be found throughout the Playbook.

CDP recognizes the increased need for philanthropy to prepare in advance for disasters and is working to build resources that support this advanced planning.

Finally, as we continue to update the Playbook, we have increased emphasis on equitable disaster recovery, recognizing the increased disparities faced by many in disaster-affected communities. The strategies, lessons learned and case studies contained throughout this site were first developed to be of maximum benefit to the U.S. social sector – to funders, individual philanthropists and nonprofit organizations.

How to use the Playbook

The Playbook compiles ideas and approaches from multiple organizations and is an evolving resource designed for knowledge- and skills-building. Community planning; civic rebuilding; legal services; housing; addressing the needs of marginalized populations; working with local, state, tribal and federal government; mitigation and preparedness are some of the common issues faced by communities after a disaster that are covered in detail in this Playbook.

Our goal is to advance learning and understanding on how the philanthropic sector can respond to and, in some cases, lead the recovery in their communities. The Playbook is also designed to help philanthropy understand effective preparedness practices and while learning from others in the sector to mitigate damage and loss of life when a disaster strikes their community.

What can you learn from the Playbook?

Designed with informative, easy-to-use tools, the Playbook serves the needs of multiple audiences, including philanthropic organizations, individual donors (including donor-advised funds), national and regional associations, government and nonprofit organizations to help them prepare for and respond to disasters.

For funders and donors

  • Learn and share tangible and tested strategies on how disaster response can align with your grantmaking to lead and facilitate a community’s recovery.
  • Find tools, resources and forms to help grantmakers move into disaster-response mode rapidly and efficiently.

For rational and regional philanthropy associations

  • Learn and share response practices on how you can educate, convene and collaborate with your members.

For nonprofits and government

  • Learn and share implementation tactics with partners and supporters in your communities.
  • Understand the role of various organizations in disaster preparedness, response and recovery.
Call for contributions

Share your knowledge, promising strategies, lessons learned, resources and success stories for inclusion in future updates to the Playbook.

Please send information on your innovative responses and lessons learned in response to disasters to playbook@disasterphilanthropy.org.

Our history

The Playbook started as a joint project of the Center for Disaster Philanthropy and Council of New Jersey Grantmakers in association with the United Philanthropy Forum.

The idea for the Playbook was born in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, when the Council of New Jersey Grantmakers and its philanthropic members were navigating the uncharted waters of the hurricane’s devastation. The Council reached out to CDP and many colleagues nationwide to learn how best to respond and benefit from experts in this field. Philanthropic leaders from throughout the country freely shared their lessons learned in the wake of their own communities’ disasters, and these discussions gave way to the development of the Playbook.


Since the Playbook’s launch in January 2016, it has continued to grow. Under CDP’s continued commitment to providing grantmakers and donors with a comprehensive suite of resources to prepare for disasters, the Playbook has evolved with new tools for community foundations.