News and analysis
November 12, 2015

New Report and Tools Paint Picture of Disaster-Philanthropy Landscape

Ricardo Garcia Vilanova, AFP, Getty Images

Members of Doctors Without Borders help a refugee on board a rescue vessel in the Mediterranean sea on September 29, 2015.

The largest 1,000 foundations in the United States made $116.9 million in disaster-related grants in 2013, according to a new report, with the Bill & Melinda Gates, Rockefeller, and Margaret A. Cargill foundations topping the list of contributors. Smaller foundations, charities, and international grant makers contributed another $60.1 million.

Published Thursday by the Center for Disaster Philanthropy and the Foundation Center, the 2015 Measuring the State of Disaster Philanthropy report expands on the inaugural report, released last year.

Most notably, the 2015 edition was published Thursday in conjunction with online interactive and mapping tools to help grant makers track how and where disaster philanthropy dollars are being spent around the globe.

"We have made a commitment to produce an annual report," said Bob Ottenhoff, chief executive of the Center for Disaster Philanthropy. "We think it is important because our ultimate goal is to transform disaster philanthropy."

That starts with understanding the landscape, he said.

"There are a lot of myths," Mr. Ottenhoff said. "There are a lot of impressions. But there is not much hard data. So that is our first step: We want to find out all of the sources of money going into disaster philanthropy, where it is going, and how it is being used."

Real-Time Information

Seema Shah, director of research for special projects at the Foundation Center, said the new report and the digital resources draw on expanded data from multiple sources including Foundation Center, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and online-giving platforms GlobalGiving and Network for Good, among others.

In addition, Center for Disaster Philanthropy is working to develop what it is calling a data-gathering network — made up of major supporters and recipients — that will eventually become a source for real-time information as disasters unfold.

While few foundations specialize in disaster work, Mr. Ottenhoff said, at some point, nearly all will contribute to some sort of major event. The newly released resources will help foundations and others make sense of the landscape and identify where and how they might patch funding gaps, he said.

According to the 2015 report, 42 percent of private disaster philanthropy from foundations went to immediate response and relief. Grants for reconstruction and recovery totaled 19 percent. Foundation grants for preparedness, meanwhile, composed just 4 percent.

Online donation platform Network for Good reported it collected $27.5 million in individual donations for disasters in 2013, while GlobalGiving took in $3.6 million. Private giving for disasters was dwarfed by support from government agencies, according to the report. For example, in 2013, FEMA disbursed more than $11 billion in grants and other types of assistance. In total, the report found $27.6 billion in 2013 for disasters and humanitarian crises.