Natural hazards like wildfires, heatwaves, and earthquakes in our region test our community’s resilience. Often times, they worsen the already dramatic disparities of wealth and power along racial and economic lines.

There’s nothing natural about the suffering that follows disasters because it doesn’t have to be that way. Philanthropy can proactively invest in hazard mitigation and preparedness efforts to lessen the impacts of disasters.

According to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, philanthropy invests most of its dollars immediately following a disaster, when media attention is at its peak. However, less than 15% of our philanthropic dollars go toward reducing hazard risk and preparing our communities. Studies show pre-disaster funding goes further. Every $1 spent on mitigation saves $6.

When the media’s attention goes away, so does philanthropic support to devastated communities. In fact, only 20% of philanthropy dollars support recovery efforts, which could take up to 10 years or more.

The uneven allocation of philanthropic dollars is also a stark reminder that we have more to do in realigning our priorities when it comes to reducing hazard risks, preparing our communities, enhancing effective disaster relief efforts, and supporting the rebuilding of livelihoods.

Immediate Steps for Our Sector:  

  1. Relentlessly and intentionally focus on equity.
  2. Tackle equity through process.
  3. Join your fellow funders.

Take it from the Netherlands, where it seldom floods despite its status as one of the most flood-prone countries in the world: disasters can be avoided with the right investments in physical and social infrastructures. By being more strategic in how philanthropy is investing in disaster resilience, we can have structures that withstand rising seas, schools that remain open, hospitals and clinics that meet the needs of their patients, families that have their basic needs met, and lifelines that are not disrupted.

Read the full article about natural hazards by Alan Kwok at Northern California Grantmakers.