Giving Back After Natural Disaster Strikes

UPDATE: September 19th

Since the publishing of this post, Hurricane Irma has devastated parts of the Caribbean and damaged many Floridian communities. Now a new Category 5 hurricane has just made landfall in Dominica and is headed for the same parts of the Caribbean still reeling from Irma. All of the national and international aid organizations listed here are expanding efforts, but here are some organizations on the ground that are seeking donations: Antigua/Barbados Red Cross, Richard Branson's BVI fund, United for Puerto Rico, and St. John Rescue.

Thank you for your generosity!


In the wake of the natural disasters in recent weeks, many of us experience the same instinctive reaction: how can I help?

From the flooding in India, Texas, Nigeria, and Niger, to the mudslides in Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo, tens of millions of people[1] have been affected with urgent pleas for help from local, national and international agencies. I believe that humans are inherently generous in times of need, particularly those who travel, but it can be overwhelming to know how to make the most impact.

Compass & Key has created this guide to empower you to donate responsibly to help communities around the world, now and in the future. For more information, see our list of recommended aid organizations, reference Charity Navigator for ratings, and read the news articles listed in the sources section.

1. Start Local

Find reliable local news sources online - the city newspaper is a great place to start - to identify the agencies on the ground that are seeking donations, volunteers, or other aid. Look for organizations like food banks, search & rescue teams, or those providing medical assistance. For example, the Houston Chronicle has been publishing an updated list of local groups that can put all donations to use quickly. On an international level, research established aid organizations that have local offices and support services on the ground, such as Global Giving, UNICEF, or the Red Cross.

2. Money Is Often the Most Impactful Gift

While donating clothing, toiletries, toys, and other physical items seem helpful, check first with relief organizations. This CBS News story reminds us that donations can sometimes cause more harm than help, often leading to waste. Monetary donations allow the organizations on the ground to distribute funds where they are most needed. This PSA explains it best (which aired after Hurricane Sandy):

If the budget is tight, use your natural talents and resources to give back. From hosting a bake sale to requesting donations in lieu of a birthday gift, there are plenty of ways to donate money. Crowdrise is an excellent resource for setting up an online fundraiser so that anyone can donate to your cause. And donating blood is always needed, whether you live in the disaster area or not (find a local blood drive here).

3. Think Short- and Long-Term

Communities often have a long road to recovery after natural disaster strikes. While an initial wave of donations can help, consider extending the impact of your generosity by splitting your donation into recurring amounts. Many charities and non-profit organizations are able to accept recurring donations when using a debit or credit card.

4. Remember Our Furry Friends

Beyond our beloved pets, all wildlife suffers during natural disasters. Animal welfare groups help rescue critters large and small, reuniting them with owners or rehabilitating them to release into the wild. Consider supporting Best Friends Animal Society (U.S. only) or the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

5. Replenish Natural Resources

Mother Nature has a way of healing itself, but sometimes she needs a little help. Conserving our natural resources helps all life thrive. Natural disasters can have far-reaching impacts on the environment, so consider donating to groups like The Nature Conservancy or the Environmental Defense Fund.

6. Keep on Traveling

So many cities rely on tourism dollars. But when natural disaster strikes, travelers often stay home. Many tourist-heavy destinations will be back up and running sooner than you may think, and your tourist dollars will go a long way in helping the local economy recovery. 


These aid organizations are helping in areas impacted by the 2017 floods and have high ratings on Charity Navigator. These are just a sampling of amazing charity and nonprofit groups doing their part to help, so make sure to do some research on your own. Together we can all make a difference to communities in need!





  • Al Jazeera News & Sources (2017) 'DR Congo landslide death toll climbs to 200', Al Jazeera News, 19 August [Online]. Available at: (Accessed: 5 September 2017).
  • Phillips, K. (2017) 'Helping Out After Hurricane Harvey: Where, What & How To Donate', Forbes, 28 August [Online]. Available at: (Accessed: 5 September 2017).
  • Domonoske, C. (2017) 'Floods In South Asia Have Killed More Than 1,000 People This Summer', NPR News, 29 August [Online]. Available at: (Accessed: 5 September 2017).
  • [1] Vidal, J. (2017) 'As flood waters rise, is urban sprawl as much to blame as climate change?', The Guardian, 3 September [Online]. Available at: (Accessed: 5 September 2017).
  • CBS News (2017) 'Best intentions: When disaster relief brings anything but relief', CBS News, 3 September [Online]. Available at: (Accessed: 5 September 2017).
  • Balch, B. (2017) 'Hurricane Harvey: How to help victims of the Texas storm', The Houston Chronicle, 5 September [Online]. Available at: (Accessed: 5 September 2017).


What other aid organizations do you support in times of natural disaster? Share in the comments below, and thank you for everything you do to help others.