Give Cash, Not Stuff: The Best Way for Families to Help After a Disaster


What’s the best way to help out after a disaster?

Raid your piggy bank.

That’s why a group of aid organizations came together to create this video.

Americans step up to help. We’re incredibly generous – donating an estimated 135.8 billion dollars to charity last year – and that doesn’t include all the canned food, bottled water, and other goods.  But sometimes, some of the stuff we give isn’t as helpful as it could be. Not the stuff that we give to local thrift stores – they make great use of all those outgrown sweaters. It’s stuff we individually want to send in response to disasters.

Sharing what we can with those who’ve been hit hard is a natural impulse. That’s certainly true in my house: it’s easier for my kids to look at a can of food and understand that someone else will get a meal. But all those cans? It can be a big hassle to get them where they need to go – not to mention expensive, and sometimes even dangerous. My husband (a firefighter) has been deployed to wild fires, and generous, well-meaning folks will drive up straight into the evacuated areas and raging flames, with donated water. Please, do not try that one at home, unless you, too, have your own personal firetruck and wildland gear. Yikes. Not to mention the logistical complexity: all that bottle water has to get stored somewhere, which costs money, and sometimes it’s not even needed – sometimes there are greater needs for equipment or supplies.

If you’re still looking for a way to help out after Sandy, or in another part of the world, check out the Center for International Disaster Relief’s Smart Compassion resources.The fundraising ideas includes fun ideas for kids and families, like hosting a snow sculpture contest or organizing an auction of children’s art work. Or, you can do what we’ve done, and pool change from your family members’ piggy banks and send it along to a solid organization who knows what the most pressing needs are, at that moment, and can respond to them swiftly.