Key Findings

CORE’s Cash for Work program in the Bahamas. CORE

Disasters and humanitarian crises affected millions of people globally in 2019. Hurricane Dorian, one of the most powerful hurricanes recorded in the Atlantic Ocean, caused catastrophic damage in the Bahamas and parts of the eastern U.S., including Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina, and Puerto Rico. Wildfires raged across California, Australia, and the Amazon, and Cyclone Idai led to flooding and mass destruction in Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe. The Rohingya crisis continued, further increasing the number of refugees, asylum seekers, and internally displaced people in Bangladesh and other countries.

Although the number of disaster events continued to increase in 2019, there is evidence that their impact on people’s lives was less severe. The Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) reported in 2019 Natural Disasters that compared to the annual average over the previous decade, in 2019, there were fewer deaths, fewer numbers of people affected, and lower economic losses.

Each year, the Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP) and Candid analyze global disaster-related funding from foundations, bilateral and multilateral donors, the U.S. federal government, corporations, and donations through donor-advised funds (DAFs) and online platforms. We analyze funding according to a taxonomy that classifies giving by type of disaster and disaster assistance strategy, allowing us to identify funding gaps and areas of opportunity so that crisis-affected communities have resources for immediate relief and to build back stronger than before.

This year’s report focuses on funding in FY 2019. Institutional philanthropy data is sourced from funders that report their grantmaking directly to Candid; published media, including English-language news and press releases; and publicly available data sources, including IRS Forms 990 and 990-PF. Due to IRS processing delays, however, this form data for 2019 is incomplete, and data collection is still underway. Therefore, all institutional philanthropy analyses in this report are presented as funding “to date.”

What lessons can we take from the philanthropic response to disasters in 2019 and apply to the current COVID-19 pandemic?

Key findings from our 2019 analysis:

  • Drawing upon 12 data sources, we documented almost $30 billion in disaster-related giving in 2019. Funding across most data sources declined in 2019 compared to 2018.
  • Based on Candid’s database, we identified $352 million in funding to date by foundations and public charities for disasters and humanitarian crises.
    • Natural hazards and severe weather events accounted for 55 percent of disaster funding.
    • Among disaster assistance strategies, 51 percent of dollars were for response and relief efforts. Six percent went toward reconstruction and recovery and 4 percent supported resilience measures. Seventeen percent of funding went toward disaster preparedness. The two largest preparedness grants came from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to prevent and manage outbreaks through vaccines.
    • Comparing a matched set of 324 foundations, disaster-related funding in 2019 held relatively steady compared to 2018, though fewer grants were awarded.
  • Official development assistance by 30 government members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC) totaled $22 billion for disasters and humanitarian crises in 2019. Non-DAC government donors and multilateral organizations contributed an additional $2.8 billion.
  • The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) distributed $3.2 billion for U.S. disasters in 2019, an $8 billion decrease from 2018. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) allocated $1 billion in recovery efforts in 2019 for disasters that took place in 2017—a substantial $33.5 billion decrease from 2018 funding for disasters that took place in 2017 and 2016. In 2019, the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) invested approximately $381.7 million in 156 projects for disasters that took place from 2017 to 2019, which was a $256.1 million increase from 2018. This is just a sampling of government contributions that make up the bulk of disaster funds in the U.S.
  • Based on data from Chief Executives for Corporate Purpose (CECP), the world’s largest companies committed about $150 million to disasters and humanitarian crises.
  • Among individual donors:
    • Individual donors contributed $20.5 million through donor-advised funds managed by Fidelity Charitable and $6 million through donor-advised funds managed by Vanguard Charitable. These numbers provide a snapshot of contributions made through donor-advised funds, as Fidelity Charitable and Vanguard Charitable are just two of many donor-advised fund management entities.
    • Many individual donors also gave through online platforms, including Network for Good and GlobalGiving. Network for Good helped direct $11.3 million in donations to disaster-specific nonprofits in 2019. GlobalGiving raised $5.1 million for disasters, supporting 184 projects in 2019.

Philanthropy plays a crucial role in supporting the long-term recovery of individuals and communities affected by disasters. This year, and moving forward, the Measuring the State of Disaster Philanthropy annual report offers specific, actionable takeaways for how donors can maximize their disaster-related giving. These insights are based on findings from the data and the latest recommendations from CDP about effective disaster funding.

Measuring the State of Disaster Philanthropy 2020: Data to Drive Decisions

With the generous support of The Irene W. and C.B. Pennington Foundation and the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, the Center for Disaster Philanthropy and Candid produce this annual analysis of funding for disasters and humanitarian crises.

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