The right way to donate goods to disaster relief efforts

It’s been a dizzying and shocking series of events in the past few weeks. From raging wildfires to monstrous hurricanes, the entire nation has been rocked by unforeseen, natural disasters. The need for aid in the affected areas is overwhelming and many Americans want to help.

We’ve all heard the call for cash but there is also a need for food, water and certain supplies. Some people prefer donating goods because they feel secure knowing exactly how their donation will be employed. Charities during times of disaster as well as throughout the year incorporate donated items into their relief efforts. And, every donated item frees up cash to be utilized elsewhere through the organization. But, although every donation is made with the best intentions, not every donation actually helps the cause.

Consider the following before donating goods or running a disaster relief drive:

Donate only needed items. Be mindful of what is actually needed in each unique situation. For example, victims in Florida don’t need coats. And, there will be multiple stages during the relief effort that will require different items. The immediate need at a disaster relief site may be water, diapers, food and socks but later during the rebuilding phase items needed may be completely different like bleach, gloves, and paper towels.


Donate usable items. Opened, expired or otherwise unusable items cause an already stressed system even more trouble. Not only do volunteers spend countless hours sorting through donations, they also must find a way to dispose of unusable items. This use of limited volunteer hours and resources is terribly wasteful.


Determine a reputable charity and establish a contact. All donations should go to a vetted charity. Search potential partner organizations using sites like charitynavigator.com or guidestar.com. Contact the charity to be sure you are collecting or donating the proper item and discuss delivery options. Disaster sites are chaotic for many reasons and the unexpected arrival of deliveries and volunteers can cause a significant disruption in the relief effort.

You can make an even greater impact when you run your own disaster relief drive. Consider getting your company, school or organization on board as a sponsor. Be specific about items you are collecting and the charity recipient so supporters know all the details. Most importantly, spread the word! Social media and email has made this pretty simple. Share your drive multiple times as people typically want to help but need to be reminded a few times before they actually make a purchase. And, set a goal that you work towards meeting.


Disaster relief drives have been simplified with our free, online drive event service, YouGiveGoods , a Better Business Bureau accredited, certified Women’s Business Enterprise which handles all the logistics so you can spend your time spreading the word and getting more donations. Each charity partner is vetted by a YouGiveGoods team member and their wish-list confirmed. All items are new, presorted and shipped in bulk in shipments that are coordinated by YouGiveGoods and the charity recipient. There is no sorting once the items get to the charity so donations can get into the hands of victims as soon as possible. Learn more about online disaster relief drive events.


It's a wonderful instinct we have to step up and help those in need. Whether you donate cash, goods or volunteer hours, you help to bring relief and hope to people in their darkest hours. So however you choose to help, feel proud and be sure to talk about it. Your work of generosity may inspire others around you to do the same!

View current disaster relief drives

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