2017 Costliest Year for Disasters on Record, Study Finds

2017 Costliest Year for Disasters on Record, Study Finds

Foundations and public charities awarded more than $500 million to address global disasters and humanitarian crises in 2017, a report from Candid and the Center for Disaster Philanthropy finds.

Drawing from a dozen data sources, the report, Measuring the State of Disaster Philanthropy 2019: Data to Drive Decisions (16 pages, PDF), documents $45 billion in disaster-related giving from the public, private, and corporate sectors as well as individuals. According to the report, 2017 was the costliest year ever for natural disasters in the United States, with hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria bringing destruction to Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and large swaths of the East and Gulf Coasts and wildfires causing loss of property in both Northern and Southern California. Globally, the list of disasters included two large earthquakes in Mexico, famine in Africa, and civil unrest in Syria and Yemen.

The sixth in an annual series supported by the Irene W. and C.B. Pennington Foundation and the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, the report found that nearly two-thirds of the $504 million in disaster relief funding awarded by foundations and public charities was earmarked for natural disasters. In terms of disaster-assistance strategies, almost two-thirds (64 percent) of the funding supported short-term response and relief efforts, 17 percent supported reconstruction and recovery, and 4 percent supported resilience and preparedness efforts. The report also notes that disaster-related giving by the thousand largest U.S. foundations doubled on a year-over-year basis in 2017; that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) paid out $15.6 billion in response to disasters in the U.S., a nearly $12 billion increase over 2016; and that corporate giving programs committed at least $275.4 million in cash and in-kind donations to address disasters and humanitarian crises.

"The data confirm that philanthropy responded generously in a year of devastating disasters in the U.S.," said Grace Sato, director of global projects and partnerships at Candid. "It also highlights funding gaps and opportunities for donors to give more strategically in areas like disaster preparedness and long-term recovery that are typically underfunded."

"While it is gratifying to note the significant funding in response to the major disasters that marked 2017, we know that two years later communities impacted are still working hard to recover. Thus, it is concerning that funding for recovery has seen no change over the previous year," said CDP president and CEO Robert G. Ottenhoff. "The increasing intensity of weather-related disasters demonstrates the impact of our changing climate and the need to support efforts to build stronger, more resilient communities."

"Disaster Giving Report Shows Foundations and Public Charities Funded Nearly $504 Million in 2017." Candid and Center for Disaster Philanthropy Press Release 11/07/2019.