WASHINGTON -- As wildfires ravage towns throughout California, many are compelled to open their hearts, and wallets, to help.
Many state, local and national organizations are currently collecting money for relief efforts. Those reading about the disasters online might even come across a “DONATE” button on Google. If they choose to donate, they will see their funds directed toward the Center for Disaster Philanthropy based in Washington, D.C.
The Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP) has partnered with Google to raise money for disaster relief for the last couple years. CDP focuses on disasters full-time so the funds raised in the immediate aftermath of an event can be put to best use.
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“What happens is when there is a disaster there is this huge outpouring of support, but it’s only for a few days,” explained Bob Ottenhoff, the President and CEO of the Center for Disaster Philanthropy. “It’s rare to see contributions to a disaster occur beyond 30 days or so. Yet the greatest needs occur in the months and sometimes years after a disaster.”
While first responders in California are still fighting the wildfires and providing relief, the attention will soon change. CDP has found by the time attention has shifted to rebuilding, the donations have long stopped. Ottenhoff says CDP then distributes donations to organizations that are working on medium to long term recovery efforts.
“Where do these people live in the short term? Can we help them rebuild their homes? What about schools? How do we get kids back in school,” Ottenhoff explained to WUSA9 on Friday.
Ottenhoff said CDP might make funding available, for example, three to nine months after a disaster has occurred. After last year’s wildfires in California, CDP was able to provide four grants in support of rapid rehousing, emergency financial assistance for families, and to support the population’s most vulnerable: low-income individuals, immigrants, seniors and families with children.
“Donors have the ability to restrict their gift to whatever cause matters to them,” said Ottenhoff. “If a person is interested in the California wildfires, they just need to say so on their contribution. Then we’ll hold it and we’ll look for the right time, the right non-profit organizations, try to find out where the funding gaps are, and then we’ll make that money available three to six to nine months later as people are starting to rebuild their lives.”
The non-profit’s model, which was formed after the 2004 Tsunami and Hurricane Katrina, is why Ottenhoff says Google chose to partner with it.
“Google partners with the Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP), an intermediary organization that specializes in distributing your donations to nonprofits that work in the affected region, to ensure funds reach those who need it the most,” Google says on it’s Donations Help page.
CDP manages funds for a number of national and international natural disasters, including Hurricanes Michael, Florence, the Sulawesi Earthquake and Tsunami in Indonesia, and many 2017 events. Ottenhoff says donations for the California wildfires have been very active over the last week, especially with the media coverage of the devastation. However, Ottenhoff says “disaster fatigue” is something that can affect the recovery efforts.
“At some point people just get tired, worn out from all the various disasters that are occurring,” he says.
Ottenhoff encourages people to think about the full life cycle of disasters when donating.
“When we see on television these terrible disasters, we want to do something,” said Ottenhoff. The urge is to do something right away and that’s fantastic. And I would encourage people to keep doing that, but not forget about the long-term recovery that’s going to happen after the first month. That’s when it’s really, really hard to get contributions.”
You can learn more about CDP’s efforts in fund California wildfire recovery by clicking here.