The eyes of the world are, rightly so, on the horrific war in Ukraine, and armed conflict continues to threaten democracy and lives elsewhere – Afghanistan, Yemen, Sudan, Syria, Congo, and beyond. Every day, people and funders are asking thoughtful questions about how to respond:

How can we help? What type of support is most needed and which organizations are most effective and trustworthy in delivery? Should we support local Ukrainian organizations, groups in neighboring countries, and/or larger humanitarian groups? How can US donors support organizations outside of the United States that may not be a registered US 501(c)3? What if the local Ukrainian banking system is overtaken – how can we still get support to local organizations? Are there certain populations that need more support than others? How do we balance responding to immediate, urgent needs with longer-term needs?

These are all vitally important questions, and with complex humanitarian crises like the war in Ukraine, the situation and needs are multifaceted and rapidly changing. Donors of all sizes are asking how to gather the data they need most to make effective, responsive decisions and deploy resources quickly. As you consider how to use your resources to support the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine (and beyond), keep these important points in mind:

  1. Source your information wisely, from experts in the field and on the ground.
  2. Take a humanistic, holistic approach to humanitarian aid. Basic survival resources are key, but the people caught in conflict need other services, too, particularly the most vulnerable, marginalized, and at-risk internally displaced people and refugees.
  3. Recognize that in a crisis, context is complex, and flexibility and proximity are key. The situation is and will change frequently based on the invasion and international politics and policies. A conflict-sensitive approach needs to be agile and responsive.
  4. Recognize different needs of different populations. Crisis-impacted and refugee populations are not universal in their cultures or their needs, or even within one group. Again, children impacted by disaster or on the move are particularly vulnerable and in need of focused attention.
  5. Remember that every crisis is interlinked with broader issues. The war in Ukraine threatens democracy and the strength of civil society. Much teeters, as well, on a free press being able to operate and deliver prompt, factual information to decision makers, including citizens.
  6. Balance immediate and longer-term responses.  Educate yourself on the longer-term issues faced by crisis survivors, whether refugees or those who remain in the area of conflict.
  7. Fund local and grassroots organizations, if possible. Less than 2% of funds to NGOs go to national and local organizations, while the vast majority goes to larger, international NGOs and multi- and bilateral organizations.
  8. Be mindful of other funders. Listening to and coordinating with other funders or donors can help facilitate collective learning and maximize impact.
  9. Go beyond the dollars. Each of us have influence and power beyond our checkbooks. Regardless of your financial status, you have agency.

Read the full article about philanthropy's role helping Ukraine by Maggi Alexander at The Philanthropic Initiative.