The humanitarian crisis in Ukraine is heart-wrenching and complex. In many respects, it’s similar to a natural disaster but it also poses distinct challenges that require both immediate and long-term support.

Philanthropists, especially those with private foundations, are able to help in more agile and flexible ways that others cannot. Not only can they respond rapidly when a crisis occurs, they can also take a longer view to understand the full scope of the problem(s), pinpoint where they can make the greatest impact and determine how to allocate their resources most effectively to boost established relief efforts and/or spawn new ones.

The following offers guidance for supporting Ukraine now and in the difficult years ahead.

Providing Immediate Help

As the circumstances in Ukraine are fluid and will likely escalate in both scale and urgency, the exact degree of support required is unknown. The following are broad types of humanitarian aid that is often issued to populations in urgent need:

  • Health and medical support
  • Shelter, water, food, sanitation, hygiene and other essentials
  • Clothing and non-food items
  • Time-critical support for both internally displaced and refugee populations
  • Protection for people in conflict zones
  • Special services for elderly, disabled, ill, impoverished and other vulnerable populations
  • Replacing suspended education and income

Donations of cash are repeatedly cited as the most effective way for donors and private foundations to provide such support because they afford charitable agencies maximum flexibility to direct funds to the areas of greatest need. (Donating items such as clothing and medical supplies requires shipping, receipt and management of goods and materials, and may hinder response efforts.)

Private foundations may also provide funding through a unique capability permitted by the IRS in times of emergency: Rather than following the usual procedure of making grants to charities, they can make them directly to individuals and families in need without obtaining prior IRS approval.

A list of nonprofit organizations that support Ukraine relief efforts is easy to find online. Before supporting a charity, though, for any cause, it’s important to ask the following:

  • Is the organization well-established and reputable? What is its history?
  • Does it have a clear mission?
  • Does it meet a vital need?
  • How sound is its stated approach?
  • Are its values congruent with my own?
  • Are its services and programs unique?
  • Who sits on its board?
  • Does it achieve substantial results? What does it report about them?

Crisis and disaster response happens in several stages. By distributing funds and support across the “disaster life cycle,” philanthropists may be able to achieve greater impact with their resources and reduce the likelihood of recurrence while also aligning their response with their values and giving priorities.

Read the full article about supporting Ukraine by Gillian Howell at eJewish Philanthropy.