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When natural disasters strike, it is typically the government and nonprofits that flock to the affected communities to offer assistance. They are among the first responders and help people in many ways. Some nonprofit focus on providing basic needs like food and water, while others offer medical, housing, and other essential services.

In addition to immediate response, nonprofits also help with long-term recovery. Because recovering from natural disasters like wildfires or floods, can take months or even years, nonprofits provide important aid to help those affected stand back up on their feet. This aid can come in the form of insurance and FEMA claims assistance, funding for rebuilding or offering rebuilding services, provide mental healthcare, and help the community prepare for future disasters.

However, nonprofits are not immune from the effects of the natural disaster themselves. Some or many of them can face problems after the event.

What Happens to Nonprofits After a Natural Disaster?

It is a known fact that nonprofits highly rely on external sources of funding and teams of volunteers. Because of this, unexpected events, such as recessions, terrorist attacks, and natural disasters, can bring consequences they could not have anticipated. These unforeseen situations can hinder a nonprofit’s access to sources of funding, which can impede the implementation of its assistance programs.

Aside from financial distress, nonprofits might also face other issues. According to a study published in the Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, these include:

  • Damage or loss of their assets or physical capital,
  • Damage or loss of essential facilities necessary for operations,
  • Staff shortage or inability to keep volunteer staff, and
  • Limited flexibility when it comes to their budget for emergency disaster response.

Why Is It Important to Help Nonprofits After a Natural Disaster?

Like the communities affected by natural disasters, nonprofits need help too. A study published in Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations found that it takes from 3 to 5 years for 50% of nonprofits to recover. In other words, nonprofits are slow to recover when they are affected by an unexpected event such as a natural disaster.

Of course, this is most likely for smaller nonprofits, which might not have commercial revenue or equity surplus to depend upon. Unfortunately, some nonprofits don’t recover at all. Financial resource is a key area of concern, obviously, as nonprofits will not be able to operate and provide assistance if they don’t have the funds to do so.

Who Are Helping Nonprofits After a Natural Disaster?

After a natural disaster, nonprofits benefit from the (mostly monetary) aid of individuals, groups, and other organizations. They all fall under the umbrella term “funder.” These funders include:


Donors can be individuals, foundations, business entities like corporation, and others. Their donations can help fill financial gaps so that nonprofits can distribute funds where they are most needed and can make an impact.

“Individual donors are vital to disaster response,” Donna Callejon, then Interim CEO of the 501 nonprofit Global Giving, told The Center for Effective Philanthropy. “It’s essential that funding is diversified so that if any one source of support wanes, projects for a recovering community can continue.”

Donor donations after a natural disaster help nonprofits be flexible in sending timely aid based on the affected  communities’ needs and priorities as well as provide long-term aid for months or years after the damaging event. These funds also help keep nonprofits stay afloat and operational.


Nonprofits often work with the federal, state, and local government when a natural disaster hits an area. The government, through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other federal departments and agencies, helps nonprofits through grants and public-private partnerships to bring short-term relief, long-term aid, and other assistance programs to those affected.


Laws, such as the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, which aim to make natural disaster assistance quick and orderly can also be advantageous for nonprofits, especially those who collaborate with the government. However, there is still much to be desired in this area as the National Council of Nonprofits points out.

The largest network of nonprofits in North America, in a post, outlines the four principles it believes is necessary to reform U.S. disaster policy, as follows:

(1) Equity in federal aid,

(2) Minimized bureaucracy and efficiency in costs and distribution,

(3) Monitoring and evaluation of disaster response options, and  

(4) Integration of environmental change into policy reforms.

Other reforms the organization is pushing for include policies that promote donations and funding for nonprofits, reduce staff shortage, and support for nonprofit recovery, among others.


The continuous help of volunteers is important right after and even months and years later as efforts to provide relief and aid continue in the area hit by a natural disaster. Volunteers are valuable in the aid distribution efforts as well as in raising awareness about the ongoing relief operations.


Nonprofits with corporate partners can tap into the latter’s connections for potential collaborations. These partners can also help coordinate the efforts of nonprofits, especially in the former’s areas of expertise, to provide and distribute long-term aid in the neighborhood after a natural disaster.  


Even the people whom nonprofits help can provide them aid too. Beneficiaries possess knowledge and insights about their locality that can help beneficiaries target hardest-hit areas and take appropriate action as the changing situation calls.

How Can You Help Nonprofits After a Natural Disaster?

While it is a good thing to help people affected by natural disasters on our own, doing so through a nonprofit might make a more significant difference in their lives. You can reach out to nonprofits on the ground directly and inquire about how you can help. If you want to donate money, these frontline nonprofits are a good place to give them as they’re in a better position to know what’s needed and provide accordingly.

Just beware that scams and frauds are out there, so it might be safer to work with a well-known nonprofit or one you know and love. Don’t click any embedded links in unsolicited emails. If you’re having any doubts about a certain nonprofit, you can always check the IRS research tool to see if it is a tax-exempt entity.

You can also monitor a nonprofit’s recovery via and ask for guidance or more information about how to make a donation or other ways you can help nonprofits from the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.

Who helps the nonprofits after a natural disaster?

In conclusion, when natural disasters strike, it is typically the government and nonprofits that flock to the affected communities to help.

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