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Unsolicited Donations in Disasters
The onslaught of unsolicited donations that come in the wake of large scale incidents can become a secondary disaster, even if donors have good intent. There are cases of unsolicited donations being exactly what was needed at just the right time, these are the exception. It is the responsibility of donors to ensure they are giving appropriately during times of disaster. As counterintuitive as it sounds, many donated goods are worse than useless because of the work that is required to deal with them! These efforts end up diverting attention away from the real needs of victims.

The most common donation made after a disaster is used clothing – anything from unmatched shoes to prom dresses. Why is it such a burden to receive what would seem to be a useful commodity? The cleaning, sorting, and labeling of mountains of clothes is labor-intensive and rather expensive – and that does not include the normal logistical hurdles of storage, transportation and distribution. Clothes that can not be used must then be properly disposed of, further burdening the response and recovery system.

There is an ingrained altruistic spirit within the hearts of Americans to help out their fellow man after a high-profile devastating event. Unfortunately, these acts hinder more than they help and are at risk of not being used at all.

More than any material good, the best way to support disaster response and recovery operations is to provide cash to a well established Disaster Organization, such as the Red Cross. Financial contributions are the best way to assist those after a disaster because humanitarian organizations can purchase exact what is needed in the proper quantity. Buying these goods or services within the affected region will further help to revitalize the area, providing others the opportunity to recover from damage or loss.

Financial support can also be transferred overseas more efficiently than materials that require transport.

Some people are afraid that their cash donation may not end up being used in a manner they intended – ironically, that is more likely to occur with many of the material donations made!

FEMA recommends that one constructive way to turn used clothing into a useful resource for disaster victims is to have a yard-sale to raise money for the disaster relief organizations that provide goods and services that the disaster survivors really need.

In the initial response stages immediately after a large scale emergent event, media coverage is wide spread and readily available to the American public by many means – internet, phone, email, television, radio, etc. However, as the media tires of the story, and press coverage lessens, so does the constant reminder of the needs in the affected area. That does not mean the need decreases, however. Sustained support of established Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters, such as the Red Cross, after the initial wave of coverage passes is another much-needed method of responsible donating.