Each year, millions of philanthropic dollars are distributed to thousands of organizations across the U.S. and other countries in response to disasters and humanitarian crises. To help understand where funding comes from and how the dollars are used, the Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP) and Candid produce the annual Measuring the State of Disaster Philanthropy (SODP) report. This report also examines how much funding addresses immediate relief, long-term recovery, preparedness and disaster risk reduction.

CDP and Candid hosted a webinar titled State of Disaster Philanthropy 2022: COVID-19 and beyond to highlight findings from this year’s SODP report and share insights into the philanthropic and governmental response to disasters that occurred in 2020. The webinar explored the huge difference between typical year-to-year disaster funding and the unusual impact of COVID-19 on philanthropic giving.

Tanya Gulliver-Garcia, CDP’s Director of Learning and Partnerships, moderated the discussion. Panelists included Elaine Martyn, Senior Vice President Private Donor Group at Fidelity Charitable; Grace Sato, Director of Research at Candid; and Vicki Jay, CEO at National Alliance for Children’s Grief.

Sato began by highlighting data in the 2022 report. The vast majority of philanthropic funding for disasters in 2020 was given in response to epidemics, mainly COVID-19. Of the $5.2 billion donors provided for disasters during the year, 96% was for epidemics and 90% was for response and relief. 

The outpouring of support and funding in 2020 is admirable, however Sato pointed out, “Apart from the pandemic, disaster funding didn’t move that much, and I think that is a little bit of cause for concern given what we know about the increase in frequency and severity of extreme weather events.”

Martyn described how donor advised funds (DAFs) are a charitable investment account that can serve as a reserve of funding when disaster strikes. Martyn also shared some trends they saw with donors including a growing interest in trust-based philanthropy, unrestricted giving and long-term funding for the underlying issues that contribute to disaster impacts.  

Jay introduced children’s grief and emphasized the importance of support mechanisms for kids. Jay said, “We don’t often recognize, or perhaps we don’t want to know, that children do grieve. We have this understanding that children are resilient, and they will bounce back, but they are not resilient alone. They need support.” In times of disaster, Jay explained that re-establishment of safety and security is crucial.

Panelists responded to audience questions and Gulliver-Garcia concluded by encouraging funders to consider these actions: think beyond response to also support disaster recovery, share data with Candid and address the intersection of climate and disasters.

Watch the full webinar at the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.