This concluding chapter outlines key themes as well as questions on philanthropic disaster response for exploration, reflection and research by policymakers, practitioners and researchers. How will we define and redefine ‘disaster’? How will the size, scale and beneficiaries of the philanthropic response shape the ways in which philanthropy is deployed? How will routes and sources of donations affect philanthropic roles and regulation? How will wider social trends influence the way in which raising and distribution of philanthropic funds are governed? How will philanthropy deal with demands for greater intra- and intersectoral coordination – and what might be the effects? And will, or should, philanthropic giving in disaster become more focused on justice, equity and root causes rather than immediate relief? These questions and provocations are designed to highlight unknowns and ambiguities, to suggest extensions and unexplored spaces, to invite attention to challenges and paradoxes – and above all, to recognise that generosity is complex, conditional and subject to change. Combined with the rest of this volume reflecting on the past and present, these final questions may contribute to a clearer picture of the challenges of the future.
When disaster strikes, fundraising efforts kick in, some of which are better prepared than others. In this chapter, practical and ethical issues in fundraising from the public are examined, considering the factors that promote institutional readiness for response. There is great need and urgency, stakes are high and compounded by heightened visibility and public expectations of transparency, accountability and speedy disbursement of funds – all to be achieved at little or no cost. Ethical issues pervade all of these components. The vestiges of colonialism often imbue philanthropic support in low-income countries with the sense of ‘white saviour benevolence’ and a lack of cultural sensitivity. Fundraisers have a tricky balance between using emotion – the cries of children and images of cuddly animals – to attract donors, and demonstrating respect for affected people and communities.
The role of public policy in philanthropic response to disasters is ad hoc, short-lived and short-sighted in not supporting philanthropy in the preparation, mitigation and resilience stages of disasters. The primary policy instruments are special tax incentives or ‘rebates’, which top up existing tax deductions or credits to raise funds in response to particular disasters, and matched funding by which government supplements amounts raised through donations. Both are applied selectively so they benefit those affected by some disasters more than others, usually those that have attracted greater media and public attention. Additional instruments are needed to move disaster philanthropy from its short-term horizon of immediate relief to addressing longer-term stages. Donors would benefit from more information about: the range of nonprofits working in affected locales; the value in almost all cases of donating money rather than goods; and understanding that raising and managing donations requires infrastructure and incurs administrative costs which also need to be supported. Regulation as a component of policy frameworks is becoming more complex, particularly related to cross-border giving and crowdfunding and managing liability for nonprofits hosting volunteers.
The mobilisation and distribution of philanthropy in response to disasters occur with legal and regulatory frameworks associated with trust and charity law, and are promoted – or inhibited – by a government’s policies supporting philanthropy. In this chapter, the legal tangles that often arise in the collection and distribution of disaster funds are assessed. Key issues with legal implications include fraud, beneficiaries who do not meet the test of being ‘charitable’, the problems created when the amounts raised are too small or too large for the intended purposes, and communities divided over the distribution of funds. The potential conflicts between charity law and the expectations of donors and affected communities are illustrated through two sets of case studies: fatal bus crashes some 60 years apart in England and Canada; and Australian natural disaster appeals nearly 50 years apart. Philanthropy is not the only means of compensating those affected by disasters, however. It works alongside, albeit independently from, insurance, government payments and tort awards for negligence. The illustrative cases, coupled with the rise of online crowdfunding and social media, point to the need for reforms, including greater coordination between, or at least consideration of, the multiple modes of compensation.
The introduction opens with a snapshot of the scale and frequency of disasters in modern times and the increasing role of philanthropy in response, and then examines the seemingly simple notions of ‘disaster’, and ‘philanthropy’. Varieties of disaster and varieties of philanthropy/giving are discussed, as well as cultural differences relating to perceptions of disaster and the roles and regulation of private giving. The importance of viewing the philanthropic response in the context of changing roles and responsibilities of the statutory and for-profit sectors and the growth of communications technologies and social media are introduced. The introduction concludes with a brief overview of existing literature and the state of theory and research.
A key theme of this chapter is the value of collaboration of philanthropic responses and coordination of service provision. Although much has been written about philanthropy associated with the 11 September attacks, this chapter provides novel perspectives in terms of how philanthropy interacted with service provision. The detailed historical analysis documents the effectiveness of the September 11th Fund, a collaboration between the United Way of New York City and the New York Community Trust, and the United Services Group (USG), an independent nonprofit organisation founded by large New York-based human services nonprofits to help victims of the attacks. Having a separate organisation to coordinate service provision gave victims an organisation they trusted. It also allowed service-providing nonprofits to return to their normal activities while programmes serving the special needs of disaster victims were also in place. Although the 9/11 disaster is unique – combining a small geographic footprint with an enormous outpouring of philanthropic support – the September 11th Fund and USG offer a blueprint for more coordinated philanthropic and service provision responses for other types of disasters.
When disaster strikes, our instinctive response is to make things better, not only as individuals but also as groups, organisations, communities and major institutions within society.
With increasing climate-related disasters and the potential for future global pandemics, philanthropy will continue to play an essential role. Yet our knowledge of how philanthropic responses to disasters are motivated, organised and received is fragmented.
This book is a step toward curating our existing knowledge in the emerging field of ‘disaster philanthropy’ and to building a robust base for future research, practice and public policy.
The authors highlight unknowns and ambiguities, extensions and unexplored spaces, and challenges and paradoxes. Above all, they recognise that philanthropic responses to disasters are complex, conditional and subject to change.
The ‘external’ actors of fundraising intermediaries and international organisations, well-resourced philanthropic foundation and firms are essential contributors in disasters. Yet so much of disaster response and longer-term rebuilding and mitigation depends on local communities. This chapter discusses how communities mobilise to build local capacities to help manage disasters in inclusive, adaptive and place-responsive ways. ‘Community’ refers to both place-based and identity communities, and more specifically the intersection between them. ‘Community philanthropy’ is the production and distribution of resources of all types by communities, and their stakeholders, in ways that seek to promote mutual aid and solidarity and overcome inequities. However, community philanthropy is not a plug-in and play solution. It is only as strong as its local partners and the local institutions it works with. It is often constrained by the uneven distribution of resources within communities, lack of organisational and adaptive capacities, and an absence of understanding and integrated planning of who will do what. This chapter is a call to more effectively problematise, research and assess these concepts and their application in disaster contexts.
The role of the private sector in philanthropic roles in disaster is less developed than that of foundations and has tended to be very firm-centric in perspective. This chapter first explores private sector roles at a theoretical level, then places a critical lens on the literature on corporate philanthropy and applies these to the 2019–20 Australian bushfires. The firm-centric or instrumental approach focuses on enhancing brand recognition and capitalising on business opportunities by selling goods and services or serving objectives of business continuity management. A community-centric lens focuses on deeper engagement with stakeholders and aligning disaster responses with broader strategies of corporate responsibility. This wider view increases the likelihood that firms will invest in mitigation preparation and resilience for communities at risk from climate change and other natural hazards. The chapter encourages a wider view of the ‘private sector’ over the current tendency to focus on large public companies. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), particularly family businesses, are often the more deeply embedded in local communities and the first to step up.
Offering candid reflections on first-hand experiences of a variety of responses to disasters, this chapter provides a ‘view from the field’ and assesses how philanthropy could do better. The problems created by restrictions of funding for short-term use are noted, as well as the value of holding some contributions back as reserves to address needs that are not at first apparent. Generally, established organisations quickly secure resources through government and non-government sources, and exit when immediate relief work is completed. Emergent groups, typically from the communities affected, are the ones meeting long-term needs that none of the more established players were able or willing to address. We also need to recognise that social inequities exist not only across but within communities. The chapter also reminds us of the importance of the small things and of improvisation in disaster management: child-friendly spaces or knitting circles. These, too, need to be supported and measured. This reinforces one of the recurring themes of this volume, which is that disaster philanthropy must provide more resources to preparedness, mitigation and long-term recovery.