The Best Way to Donate to Disaster Relief

The Best Way to Donate to Disaster Relief

Here at The Earthquake Bag, we believe in making a difference.

Our goal is to make a difference in as many lives as possible, through earthquake preparation, education, and disaster relief.

That’s why we founded our Disaster Relief Program, where $5 of every order goes straight towards the organizations that need it the most.

Why Donate to Disaster Relief

Imagine having to choose whether your money will pay for food or shelter.

That’s the choice millions of families make daily, after a natural disaster destroys their communities. Suddenly without homes, schools, or employment, those affected by natural disasters rely on the help of others to help them rebuild.

2017 was the costliest year on record for damages from natural disasters the United States. Repairs to American communities amounted to more than $300 billion dollars. In Texas, flooding from Hurricane Harvey racked up $180 billion. Hurricane Irma devastated parts of the United States. Hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans are still without power.

Around the world, developing countries fared even worse.

A magnitude 7.1 earthquake rocked Mexico in September, killing 370 people and injuring more than 6,000. Colombia had a mudslide that killed more than 250 people.  More than 1,200 people were killed and nearly 40 million affected by a monsoon that flooded Bangladesh, India, and Nepal.

2017 gave us wildfires throughout California. In October, fires in Northern California destroyed nearly 9,000 structures and killed 44 people. Just two months later, the Thomas Fire in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties forced hundreds of thousands to evacuate with little warning.

Hurricane Maria struck in the Dominican Republic. Avalanches in Afghanistan killed over 100 people.

Millions of people around the world will wake up tomorrow morning and still be without power. Without their homes. Without their loved ones.

Children forced to live in houses where mold creeps further up the water-damaged walls each day. Family members with mobility issues trapped in homes filled with standing water or, worse, in no home at all. Earthquake-ravaged communities in Mexico live in rubble, with no way to rebuild on their own.

These communities rely on the generosity of disaster relief organizations. Those organizations rely on donations from people like you and me.

Mold growing on home in Texas. Image provided by Skyler Hallgren.

The Best Way To Donate to Disaster Relief

There are many reasons why people donate to charities.

Whatever your reason, there are a few simple things to consider when choosing the right place to send your money or your time.

The best way to donate to disaster relief is to find an organization that:

  • Is legitimate;
  • Has a well-defined mission with measurable goals;
  • Is open about where the donations go;
  • Makes a measurable difference in the communities they serve.

We have great news for you. We know some amazing organizations that meet all the above criteria.

Disaster Relief Partner Spotlight: All Hands and Hearts – Smart Response

Maximum impact. Minimum bureaucracy. That’s Founder David Campbell’s motto for All Hands Volunteers.

Our closest partner in Disaster Relief is All Hands and Hearts – Smart Response. Recently, we asked All Hands and Hearts if they would be willing to share some information about their programs with us.

What are you most proud of in your organization?

Our organization brings out compassion in all our volunteers and restores faith in humanity. So far we have facilitated over 45,000 volunteers help more than 500,000 individuals impacted by disaster!


Tell us how All Hands and Hearts - Smart Response began.

All Hands Volunteers was founded in 2004 as a local response in Thailand to the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami that caused over 240,000 fatalities. David Campbell co-founded HandsOnThailand. After Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast of the US in 2005, David and several other HandsOn volunteers established HandsOnUSA, coordinating 1500 volunteers to help the survivors of the hurricane.

In 2010, HandsOnUSA became All Hands Volunteers.

In 2017, All Hands Volunteers merged with long term funding partner, Happy Hearts Fund, whose own mission was to rebuild schools for communities that were impacted by natural disasters.

Happy Hearts Fund was founded by Supermodel and Philanthropist Petra Nemcova, a survivor of the Indian Ocean tsunami. Petra herself was swept away by the tsunami and survived by clinging to a tree for eight hours.

Since its formation in 2004 Happy Hearts Fund rebuilt 170 disaster resilient schools across 10 countries!

How long do you stay in an area to help and rebuild?

A phrase our Co-Founder David Campbell likes to use is “we come early and stay late.”

Three aspects determine the length of programs; need of the community impacted by the disaster, do we have sufficient funds to keep working in the area, and enough volunteer interest to continue our work. We have been running continuous programs in Nepal since April 2015. In that time, we have demolished 75 structures, built 100 transitional houses, and constructed 13 schools. In October of 2018 we will begin construction on more schools.

Image provided by volunteer.

What sets your organization apart from others?

We are volunteered-powered and do not charge a fee.

We provide three meals and day and accommodations. We strongly believe in the untapped power of the individual driven by a desire to make a difference.

All Hands and Hearts takes a unique approach and accepts spontaneous volunteers from any background or faith, providing on-the-job training free of charge.

We live in the communities we serve which allows us to build strong relationships with the local people.

Image provided by volunteer.

How do you choose where to help?

We by listening to the community to identify their greatest needs, what needs are not being met by other organizations, and then creating a long-term action plan that can be executed with speed and real time problem solving. We seek out the most underserved communities which are usually outside of the public eye.

We ensure that we are not a drain on already limited resources in developing countries.

Finding the place where donations can do the most good is the main factor in one’s decision to donate. What percentage of each donation reaches its intended recipients?

94.6% of our donations are spent directly on programs worldwide. This means 5.4% of donations cover our general administrative work, marketing, and fundraising expenses. This is based on our Fiscal Year 2017 results. For the fourth consecutive year, All Hands and Hearts - Smart Response has earned a coveted 4-star rating by Charity Navigator, the main trusted independent evaluator of non-profits. Only 13% of 1.5 million charities in the USA have received at least four consecutive 4-star ratings, indicating All Hands and Hearts performs to an exceptionally high standard in terms of operational and financial efficiency. To learn more, click here!

Image via All Hands and Hearts.

What do you tell people who are reluctant to donate money, or cannot afford to?

“No donation is too small, and no time is too short.”

Monetary donations are important, but time is equally as important as monetary donations. As a volunteer-powered organization we would not be able to run the programs we do without individuals committing their time to help.

Most volunteers participate in the physical work, such as mucking and gutting flooded homes, rubbling, and demolition of structures decimated by earthquakes.

We also have ‘Renewal’ projects. This is where our volunteers uncover new ways to help, which invariably brings new ideas and creative solutions. Projects have included everything from weekly movie nights for kids in Malawi, to weekly English tutoring sessions for children and local masons in Nepal, to entrepreneurial and financial literacy classes for secondary school girls in Peru, and Thanksgiving dinners for hundreds of flood victims in Detroit.

Another way you can help without donating is by following and sharing our mission on social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. This is a great way for friends and family members to see what you are supporting.

What makes a good volunteer, and how do you choose them?

We will take anyone and everyone that is willing to break a sweat, work hard, and enjoy it all at the same time. With eleven programs open across the world, the need for volunteers is huge. We have had volunteers from over 90 countries, and ages as old as 91.

We train all volunteers correctly and safely on all aspects of the work we will be carrying out. There are no unqualified volunteers.

Image provided by volunteer.

What message do you have for future volunteers?

If you’re looking to get involved with disaster relief work with an authentic experience, then you should not hesitate to sign up with All Hands and Hearts. It is a quick and easy sign up process, just click here and choose which program you would like to volunteer on. Whilst on program you will meet other volunteers from across the globe and work in communities you might never visit during your regular travels.

It truly is an experience of a lifetime - this is why we have so many recurring volunteers!

Image provided by Skyler Hallgren.

Making a Real Impact

All Hands and Hearts – Smart Response is an incredible organization. Unlike many groups, they stay until the job is done. Whether that takes them 6 months or 2 years, they are willing to put in the time and effort to rebuild homes, families, and the community.

Trinity Rose is a 36-year-old woman from Louisiana. After the floods of 2016, Trinity’s home was destroyed. She lived in a tent in her own front yard for five months. She had no insurance, no assistance from FEMA, and no family to help her. With her property and car destroyed, Trinity lost hope.

But soon, All Hands and Hearts arrived.

This is Trinity with the volunteers who came to help her rebuild. Image via All Hands Blog.

“All Hands people are like shining diamonds. And they come together for the common purpose…it’s the sheer magic of it that is amazing to me.  You can’t buy that in life. And without having this horrible tragedy, I never would have been able to experience that.” Trinity told All Hands and Hearts.

Volunteers arrived, ready to rebuild the community – and the hearts of its citizens.

This is the kind of work that All Hands and Hearts does every single day.

Please consider donating your social media attention, your time, or your money to organizations like All Hands and Hearts.

Image provided by volunteer.

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  • Kamee Collins