Disaster Relief: Best Ways to Respond Now AND Have a Lasting Impact

The news about Hurricanes Harvey and Irma is terrible. People need our help, but what CAN we do? And what SHOULD we do?

What Can You Do Now?

  1. Contribute digitally

The most experienced and well-positioned organizations know what is needed and where, and have the know-how to provide emergency services so it is best to make monetary donations to reputable organizations your first move. Prior to donating, check out the charity using an authoritative site such as Charity Navigator.

  1. Volunteer locally

Inquire with the local Red Cross and other reputable organizations and help organize resources to be transported to affected areas.

  1. Donate responsibly

Relief agencies can be bogged down by receiving too many donated goods in the early days following a disaster if the items aren’t needed right away (e.g. clothes, household items) or are poorly organized. For this reason, in the early days after a disaster only donate items that the organizations asked for.

  1. Reach out thoughtfully

If you know anyone who is directly impacted by a disaster, reach out with messages of hope and strength.  Use social media to express your support and to learn more about how you can help. You cannot underestimate how important it is to show that you care. 

What Can You Do Later?

Once the initial crisis has passed there are still many things you can do to help families and communities recover:

  1. Contribute continually

While donations in the very early days following a disaster are great, it takes years for families and communities to recover. Collecting and making small ongoing donations over a long period of time will have a bigger impact.

  1. Volunteer purposefully

After the initial crisis is over there will be time and countless opportunities for volunteers to help affected communities. Do you want to help pets? Collect sports equipment? Think about what you want to do to help and seek out organizations that provide those sorts of services – then get into action!

  1. Lead visibly 

Charity organizations can’t be expected to do everything after a major disaster, and full recovery can only happen when everyone gets involved. You have a circle of family, friends, and other people that want to help out, but they don’t know exactly what they can do. Step up and lead efforts with the people closest to you!


All of the school clubs and activities can get involved in relief efforts.  The important thing is to share the events with each other and to come together to make a greater impact.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Plan an art show, concert, or other family event
  • Plan to participate in rebuilding efforts
  • Plan for the Holidays.
    • Thanksgiving food drive (in coordination with regional food banks)
    • Adopt a Family for the Holidays (Giving Tree to Identify Items Requested by Age)
  • Adopt a school or class.
    • Hurricane Relief Teacher Fund – allows the teacher to invest funds in the areas of greatest need for their class (note: work with your local Teachers Union to respond to identified needs)
    • Brainstorm about how you could use technology to “share your classroom” and resources with a school in recovery

There is still so much work that needs to be done. Let’s all get to work!