After a disaster like Hurricane Harvey, determining what people need and when they need it is a key part of effective philanthropy, charitable-giving experts say. In fact, the wrong donation at the wrong time may do more harm than good.

What do people need a month after? Ms. Heisman still recommends cash because it allows survivors or on-the-ground charities to buy items in the community and boost the local economy.

What do people need after a year?

“Unfortunately, in the age of the 24-hour news cycle, attention moves away from the disaster and its victims fairly quickly, and the community feels forgotten,” Ms. Heisman says. Committing to the long-term recovery effort is essential to rebuilding a community.

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