Make your post-disaster donation count in the long-run
This article was published on the Philanthropy Australia blog in April 2017.
As the scale and impacts of Cyclone Debbie and the subsequent flooding becomes apparent, generous Australian’s will no doubt want to start making donations to support those affected. These contributions are incredibly important, providing immediate relief and helping individuals begin to get back on their feet.
But as disasters become more and more common, few people look back and wonder how the people who were affected by last year’s disasters are doing, how their community is recovering, what help they need. The focus is always on the current devastating event, or next disaster.
Recovery takes time
The reality is they will need help. From FRRR’s experience supporting community groups through natural disasters, we know that it can take up to 10 years for communities to fully recover, so it’s critical to look back.
The first 12-18 months after a disaster are usually all about the individual and family – cleaning up; rebuilding or repairing their home; replacing livestock; just surviving. It’s only once those things are at least stable that local leaders begin to think about the gaps in their community – fixing community infrastructure damaged during the disaster, or looking to address issues like mental health and well-being, volunteer fatigue and re-creating a sense of identity.
But by this stage, all too often, the funds are gone, or money that remains is tied up and can only be used for ‘emergency relief’. That’s why our programs begin 12-18 months after the initial disaster event.
The 40/60 rule
Because recovery is a marathon, not a sprint, we advocate that at the time of the disaster, people – and institutions –consider splitting their donations. We suggest that 40% goes to immediate emergency assistance, and 60% toward medium and long-term recovery.
This recognises that it takes time for people to find the head space to take on new challenges beyond just surviving day to day, and to begin to look more broadly around the community. The other reality is that needs change over time, which is another reason why post-disaster support needs to continue, and be flexible enough to respond to those needs.
Make your donation count
With the majority of communities affected by Cyclone Debbie being rural and regional communities, we have launched a Cyclone Debbie recovery fund. Donations for medium to long-term recovery programs can be made online or by calling 03 5430 2399.
FRRR’s unique structure under the Australian Income Tax Assessment Act allows us to distribute funds to non-DGR (deductible gift recipient) groups. This means that we can reach small rural and regional organisations that cannot otherwise access traditional philanthropy, ensuring funds reach those in need, when they really need it.
If you would like to know more, email me via firstname.lastname@example.org or explore the impacts of some of the projects funded to support recovery following Cyclone Yasi.