October 31, 2012

Charities Scramble to Raise Money After Sandy Hits

Relief workers load supplies onto an AmeriCares mobile clinic. The aid organization is one of many working on the relief effort. (Photo courtesy of AmeriCares)

Nonprofit organizations are starting to mobilize donations to help victims of Hurricane Sandy, but so far the sums appear to be small.

That's in part because the two big groups involved in disaster fundraising, the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army, declined to release a tally of how much they have collected so far.

"The public had been generous in supporting Red Cross efforts to help the millions of families affected," said Anne Marie Borrego, a Red Cross spokeswoman, in a written statement. "Our primary focus has been on providing service delivery, and we are still processing incoming donations."

Jennifer Byrd, a Salvation Army spokeswoman also would not release any fundraising figures. But she acknowledged her charity faces a tension that will trouble many types of charities, not just those raising money for relief -- how to balance ambitious year-end appeals like the Salvation Army's holiday campaign with solicitations for the victims of one of the nation's costliest natural disasters.

"It's hard to tell if the storm will impact our year-end fundraising," she wrote in a statement, "but in years past we've seen that the public is generous, and people tend to donate to the Salvation Army's Red Kettle Campaign even if there have been significant disasters in the prior year."

Small Sums

In the aftermath of disasters, organizations generally prefer cash donations over goods, noting that money gifts allow them to pay for disaster aid in a more efficient and cost-effective way than transporting donated goods to victims.

So far, though, it appears that money is only trickling in. Among the groups that have reported results:

  • Network for Good, a giving portal that allows donors to contribute to any charity in the country, says it has raised $33,000 for relief groups such as the American Red Cross, AmeriCares, the Salvation Army and the Association for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. One percent of the total came from text-message donations, says Katya Andresen, chief operating officer.
  • The American Humane Association has raised $25,000 to help rescue pets and animals.
  • Catholic Charities USA has raised $18,000.
  • Team Rubicon, a nonprofit that enlists military veterans to respond to disasters, has raised $15,000.

Is your organization raising money for Sandy relief efforts? Tell us about your efforts in the comments section.

Emma Carew Grovum and Marisa López-Rivera contributed to this article.

Send an e-mail to Raymund Flandez.