Giving Wisely to Disaster Relief

February 7, 2013

disaster relief - image of sinking houseThe last few years seem to have been marked by a series of terrible natural, and man-made, disasters. Each of these disasters has also seen a wonderful outpouring of giving from across the globe. The March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan is the latest and we at CFNJ extend our deepest sympathies and condolences to victims and families.

There are now a number of resources that can help you find good charities to support in Japan and when other disasters occur (we have included some below), but we wanted to our donors to think about another option — waiting. From our perspective, rarely is a lack of immediate cash hindering response to disasters. Local governments and aid agencies typically have the ability to mount a response without waiting for individual donations. Indeed we argue that the needs in the impacted communities are often more acute six months or a year later, when the attention and giving have faded.

The earthquake in Haiti in a sad way makes the case. Conditions continue to be terrible in Port Au Prince. A recent report by Human Rights Watch underlines this point. Your gift is likely needed in Haiti now more than one year ago.

A note to yourself expressing the compassion, empathy and commitment you feel immediately after the disaster can serve as your reminder to support Japanese relief efforts in the not-so-distant future. We encourage our donors to consider bottling the emotion and sympathy that drives you to give during the first few days, mark a future date on your calendar to revisit that emotion, and then work with us to find a good way to help the recovery. In this way you can target your giving to the most effective agencies or efforts that are continuing the recovery work.

Individuals who would like to support disaster relief efforts either now — or in the future — are encouraged to consider contributions to what we identify as highly effective, well established organizations that possess knowledge and expertise in responding to global crises.

  • Doctors Without — sends medical teams to partner with local authorities at emergency clinics.
  • International Rescue — provides response teams to assist local partners.
  • Mercy — collaborates with local partners to provide emergency supplies, food, water and shelter.
  • Save the — donates immediate, life-saving assistance such as food, water and shelter for children and their families.

If you would like to discuss how you can help Japan or Haiti through your Donor Advised Fund at CFNJ, please contact Madeline Rivera via either e-mail at or fax at 973-267-2903. All other questions may be directed to Nancy Hamilton at either or 973-267-5533, extension 240.

Photo Credit: FUKUSHIMA MINPO/AFP/Getty Images