This guidance paper goes above and beyond what donors can learn — or already have learned — from a handful of excellent guides developed by the philanthropic community since Hurricane Katrina. Much of this literature on "disaster philanthropy" has been directed at the most effective ways for donors and their agents to deliver assistance during unfolding crises and the immediate aftermath, and how donors and their agents can help provide food, water, clothing, shelter, sanitation, health care and self-governance for masses of displaced and traumatized people.

Here, we discuss innovative and under-appreciated ways that donors can help American communities recover and rebuild resiliently from disasters. The goal is to give donors a fresh perspective on supporting local efforts not only to rebuild from disasters already sustained, but also to prepare to recover from potential disasters. In both cases, there are opportunities for donors to directly fund, or pool and leverage funds for a variety of recovery and rebuilding activities, programs and services.

  • Donors are essential sources of support for disaster recovery in two distinct categories of communities.
  • Post-disaster communities that have stabilized to the point of thinking about “getting back to normal” and not merely getting by day to day (page 6).
  • Communities that have not experienced a disaster recently or ever, but because they clearly are in harm’s way, want to establish mechanisms to help them jump start the process of recovery if the worst should happen (page 6).

Seven major trends will shape and define the political and economic environment in which donors confront requests for disaster-related assistance.

  1. There likely will be less federal money to support recovery than in prior years (page 8).
  2. “Recovery” as a discipline and area of professional specialization has begun to “mature” or “come of age,” which means it potentially may become more bureaucratized and formulaic (page 8).
  3. A major long-term reduction in the amount of catastrophic risk that households, businesses and the public sector have transferred to the private insurance market will result in much greater losses borne by communities when disasters strike (page 9).
  4. Decaying and under-maintained infrastructure is a time bomb facing communities that experience disasters (page 12).
  5. Many communities may lack an adequate understanding of their exposures (page 12).
  6. Disasters are followed by a very short window when communities can attempt to envision and embark on a path towards alternative futures (page 13).
  7. With the exception of Hurricane Katrina, the United States has not experienced a true megadisaster (page 13).

Download the full paper, a donor's guide to disaster recovery by David M. Abramson, Derrin Culp, Laurie A. Johnson and Lori J. Bertman from the National Center for Disaster Preparedness.