Harnessing the Power of Data to Maximize Disaster Giving

In Louisiana, 85 percent of our population is currently recovering from natural disasters. As the range of disasters that we experience continues to expand, from hurricanes and tornadoes to floods and manmade disasters, it has become more difficult for us to predict the type of crisis that will occur. Vulnerable populations are particularly affected, and as a result, the Irene W. and C.B. Pennington Foundation believes that disaster philanthropy should be a part of every philanthropist’s portfolio.

To give funders the data and tools they need to understand best practices in disaster philanthropy, the Pennington Family Foundation has made an investment in the Measuring the State of Disaster Philanthropy platform to ensure disaster grantmaking is data-driven. Produced by the Center for Disaster Philanthropy and Foundation Center, the online platform includes a report and an interactive map that both provide valuable data on when, where, and how much donors contribute to disasters, which can help funders make more informed and effective funding decisions.

The report makes it clear that, though contributions are relatively small compared to governments and multilateral agencies, private philanthropists have a particularly critical and distinct role to play in disaster funding. Since our funding is uniquely flexible, collaboration with these agencies enables us to leverage our funds and take bold action to build stronger, more resilient communities.

Here are three ways that funders can use Measuring the State of Disaster Philanthropy to maximize their disaster giving impact:

Explore other funders’ grantmaking strategies. The map data allows users to see grant-level information by region, disaster type, and disaster strategy. For example, you can filter by Louisiana, floods, and reconstruction and recovery to see that the John A. Hartford Foundation provided funding to rebuild a geriatric medicine and training facility at Louisiana State University. If geriatric medicine and capital reconstruction align with your grantmaking strategy, you may want to reach out to and share lessons with this foundation. In this way, you have the opportunity to learn from other foundations with similar funding priorities. 

Find and fill major funding gaps. Measuring the State of Disaster Philanthropy consistently reports that a majority of funding—more than 70 percent—goes to immediate response and relief. To get the most impact out of your funding, consider supporting under-funded areas of the disaster life cycle, like recovery and rebuilding or better still, preparedness. Studies have found that increased investment in early preparedness could reduce the costs of response by more than 50 percent, and save more lives by facilitating swifter, more innovative, and more efficient response to disasters. 

Identify potential funding partners. Using the map, you can drill down to see other funders who are working in your region. You can explore their grantmaking approaches and decide whether you would consider collaborating with them. Looking at Louisiana, as an example, you can see that the Blue Moon Fund, based in Virginia, provided an innovative grant for the development of the Economic Protection and Resilience Organization in New Orleans. This listing allows you to find and reach out to potential funding partners, even when they are not locally-based. 

Whether disasters are happening in your community or not, they impact our economy, human services, and populations as a collective whole. Effective and efficient disaster philanthropy can make the difference between life and death.

Learn more about how you can use data to drive better funding decisions and check out these resources from the Center for Disaster Philanthropy

About the author(s)

President and CEO
Irene W. and C.B. Pennington Foundation