Natural disasters are becoming more and more prevalent across the globe. What was once known as a “500-year storm” now appears to be referenced to as a “once a decade storm.” The damage of these natural disasters climbs well into the hundreds of millions of dollars each year. The affected parties often turn to charities to help pay for these damages. While these charities do a lot of good and help thousands of people per year, they do very little to address the larger issues of these natural disasters. That is why I felt it necessary to explore the difference between disaster charity and sustainable philanthropy. It will be explored with the following three questions:

  • What Is Disaster Charity?
  • What Is Sustainable Philanthropy?
  • Where Do The Two Intersect?

What Is Disaster Charity?
Disaster charity is the cyclical outpouring of funds that usually follow the natural disaster calendar. Hurricanes have a particular season as do wildfires. Money donated to help those who have lost their homes and businesses usually follow the same cycles as well. The problem is, in the off-seasons, those donations greatly drop and the cycle repeats. While disaster charity may be necessary now, it may not always be the way natural disasters are dealt with thanks to sustainable philanthropy.

What Is Sustainable Philanthropy?
Sustainable philanthropy is charitable giving with a more long-term focus. It is designed to build out infrastructure over a period of time rather than simply address a current need that will reoccur the following year. For example, one of the biggest issues in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina was the failure of levees. Sustainable philanthropy would focus on an issue such as this to make sure these levees are fortified to address an even larger storm in the future. If these levees are built up to a respectable level, the need for disaster charity may not be so great each year.

Where Do The Two Intersect?
Disaster charities can be thought of as short-term patches while sustainable philanthropy is seen as a more long-term solution. Instead of only address the specific issue at hand, sustainable philanthropy addresses the bigger issues which may make a much greater impact on the lives of those most likely to be affected by a natural disaster. It is imperative that disaster charities encourage donors to pivot their giving to sustainable philanthropy even when the current season does not coincide with natural disasters.