The situation in Ukraine is a complex crisis – one that shares many similarities with natural disasters, but also presents a set of unique challenges that require both near-term and long-term support.
As a philanthropist, you have the agility and flexibility to help in ways that others cannot. In addition to responding immediately when a crisis occurs, you can take a longer view to fully understand the scope of the problem(s), identify where you can have the greatest impact and how to best use your resources to amplify established humanitarian efforts and other large-scale systems.
The Disaster Lifecycle
There are several stages of disaster and crisis response. By directing funds across the lifecycle, you may be able to achieve greater impact with your assets and reduce the likelihood of recurrence while also aligning your response with your values and giving priorities.
According to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, there are four key stages in responding effectively to critical situations.
- Response and Relief – the stage during or immediately following an emergency. Often with a focus on saving lives, preventing further damage and providing basic human services. This stage typically draws the most attention from the media and the most funding.
- Reconstruction and Recovery – the stage after damage has been assessed, including longer-term efforts to restore a community or country to pre-disaster state. It may also focus on mitigating future disasters. This work typically begins after the event no longer dominates the news cycle and is often more expensive than relief, and overlooked and underfunded by public charities, private philanthropists and insurance companies.
- Mitigation – more strategic work designed to cure factors leading or contributing to emergencies and limit the impact of similar events in the future. This stage requires hazard risk analysis and the investment of time and resources to build resilience and reduce risk. Activities may include strengthening existing infrastructure and developing redundant processes.
- Preparedness – another strategic phase, involving detailed plans that will help people and areas respond effectively to disasters or crises. Activities may include planning exercises, training and educating volunteers, identifying evacuation routes and partners, stocking food, water and other basic necessities.
For more information: https://disasterphilanthropy.org/issue-insight/the-disaster-life-cycle/
Areas of Need
The situation in Ukraine is fluid and expected to escalate in both scale and urgency. At this time, the full scope of needs is not known. Outlined below are broad categories of humanitarian aid commonly needed when protecting at-risk populations.
- Time-critical support for both internally displaced and refugee populations
- Protection for people in conflict zones
- Shelter, water, food, sanitation, hygiene, and other essential needs
- Clothing and non-food items
- Health and medical support
- Replacing suspended education and income
- Special services for elderly, disabled, ill, impoverished and other vulnerable populations
Please note that cash donations are consistently cited as the most effective way for grantmakers and other donors to provide assistance, which gives charitable agencies maximum flexibility to direct funds to the areas of greatest need. Donating items requires shipping, receipt and management of goods and materials and may detract from response efforts.
Here are five concepts to keep in mind as you are formulating your response.
- Know Your Motivation – what about the crisis speaks to you? Is there a stage in the disaster lifecycle that would benefit greatly from your personal network or professional strengths? There are numerous ways to connect your philanthropic mission to the needs that arise in emergency situations.
- Do Research – this includes staying abreast of current affairs as well as looking to past disasters and similar situations for guidance and key lessons that can help you construct a high-impact response.
- Partner with Other Funders – exchange insights and best practices with other philanthropists. In the process you may find collaborators with similar or complementary goals that will allow you to develop a more innovative or comprehensive response.
- Keep Equity in Mind – disasters and crises have the potential to magnify inequities. There may be marginalized, vulnerable or under-resourced populations that will feel the crisis more acutely and may have difficulty accessing essential services.
- Be Aware of Scammers – many new nonprofits are formed in response to disasters, and while some are legitimate, unfortunately, others are not. Please evaluate new organizations carefully before making a commitment.
Resources – To Learn More
CDP Webinar – Complex Humanitarian Emergencies: Where crisis, conflict, climate and COVID-19 meet
Thursday, March 10
2pm ET/11am PT
- Center for Disaster Philanthropy
- United Nations Office for the Coordinator of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA)
- National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster
Resources – To Evaluate Charities
- Disaster Relief: Providing Assistance Through Charitable Organizations: https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p3833.pdf
Resources – Ukraine-specific Organizations