Key Findings

Food and water delivery to a family sharing the only room they have left after Hurricane Maria destroyed their home in the mountains around Utuado, Puerto Rico, October 12, 2017. U.S. Air Force / Master Sgt. Joshua L. DeMotts / CC BY 2.0

Disasters and humanitarian crises affected millions of people globally in 2017. Hurricane Harvey devastated 60 counties in Texas, while Hurricane Irma caused widespread devastation in the United States and the Caribbean. Hurricane Maria caused massive destruction in Dominica, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. Two major earthquakes of magnitudes 7.1 and 8.1 struck Mexico in September within two weeks of each other, killing hundreds and injuring thousands of people. Famines in Africa and civil unrest in Syria and Yemen continued, further increasing the number of refugees, asylum seekers, and internally displaced people.

In the United States, 2017 was the costliest year of major natural disasters on record. These disasters included Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, and devastating wildfires in California—in addition to major flooding events, tornadoes, and winter storms.

Each year, the Center for Disaster Philanthropy and Candid (formerly Foundation Center and GuideStar) analyze global disaster-related funding from foundations, bilateral and multilateral donors, the U.S. federal government, corporations, and donations through donor-advised funds and online platforms. We analyze funding according to a taxonomy that classifies giving by type of disaster and disaster assistance strategy.

Key findings from our 2017 analysis:

  • Drawing upon twelve data sources, we documented almost $45 billion in disaster-related giving in 2017.
  • We specifically identified $504 million in funding by foundations and public charities for disasters and humanitarian crises, based on Candid’s database; this includes transactions by U.S. and non-U.S. donors.
    • Natural disasters accounted for 65 percent of disaster funding. Half of total disaster-related funding went to storms, with many funders responding to the devastation caused by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.
    • Among disaster assistance strategies, 64 percent of dollars were for response and relief efforts. Seventeen percent went toward reconstruction and recovery. A mere 2 percent was allocated for resilience measures and disaster preparedness measures each.
  • Disaster-related funding doubled from 2016, based on a year-over-year analysis of grantmaking by 1,000 of the largest U.S. foundations.
  • Official development assistance by 30 government members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC) totaled $21 billion for disasters and humanitarian crises in 2017, a nearly $1.4 billion increase from the prior year. Non-DAC government donors and multilateral organizations contributed an additional $1.9 billion.
  • The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) distributed $15.6 billion for U.S. disasters in 2017, an $11.9 billion increase from the prior year. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) allocated $2.7 billion in recovery efforts.
  • Based on available data, corporate giving programs committed at least $275.4 million to disasters and humanitarian crises, through both cash and in-kind donations.
  • Among individual donors:
    • Data from a survey of U.S. households, conducted by Candid, the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, and the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, indicates that 31 percent of U.S. households made a disaster-related donation in 2017, averaging $80. We can infer from this that U.S. households may have donated roughly $3 billion to disaster aid efforts in 2017.
    • Individual donors contributed $60 million through donor-advised funds managed by Fidelity Charitable and $20.2 million through donor-advised funds managed by Vanguard Charitable.
    • Many individual donors also gave through online platforms like Network for Good and GlobalGiving. Network for Good helped direct $12.5 million in donations to disaster-specific nonprofits in 2017. GlobalGiving raised $27.6 million for disasters, supporting 243 projects by 169 organizations in 2017.

We hope this analysis will aid donors in considering how to maximize the impact of their disaster-related giving.

Measuring the State of Disaster Philanthropy 2019: Data to Drive Decisions

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

Download Report