Large U.S. Foundations Gave $158.1 Million for Disaster Relief in 2015

Large U.S. Foundations Gave $158.1 Million for Disaster Relief in 2015

Large U.S. foundations awarded a total of $158.1 million in response to disasters and humanitarian crises in 2015, down from nearly $225.7 million in 2014 — a year in which giving for disasters surged in response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, a report from the Center for Disaster Philanthropy and Foundation Center finds.

Based on an analysis of grants awarded by a thousand of the largest U.S. foundations in 2015, the report, Measuring the State of Disaster Philanthropy 2017: Data to Drive Decisions (12 pages, PDF), found that although total grant dollars awarded for disasters fell 30 percent from 2014 levels, a total of 202 foundations made 740 grants for disaster-related causes, compared with 162 foundations that awarded 525 disaster-related grants in 2014. The report also found that, in the wake of the Ebola outbreak, $32.6 million, or more than 20 percent of disaster-related grant dollars, was focused on efforts to address disease outbreaks and epidemics, while, in response to a series of earthquakes that struck Nepal in April, the largest number of grants, 159, totaling some $16.9 million, or 10.7 percent of  disaster relief dollars, was awarded for earthquake relief efforts. And in response to the global refugee crisis, funding for complex humanitarian emergencies increased dramatically, to $26.6 million, or nearly 17 percent of overall funding, from $7.7 million, or just 3 percent, in 2014.

Funded by the Irene W. and C.B. Pennington Foundation, with additional support from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, the fourth edition of the annual study found that in terms of strategy, funding from the largest U.S. foundations in 2015 shifted slightly toward disaster risk management — a shift largely driven by the Ebola outbreak. And while disaster response and relief efforts continued to receive the most funding, that category's share of overall funding fell to 34 percent, from 73 percent in 2014, while resilience, risk reduction, and mitigation efforts accounted for 17 percent of grant dollars, up from 9 percent in both 2013 and 2014. According to the report, disaster preparedness (6 percent, up from 2.3 percent in 2014) and reconstruction and recovery (5 percent, up from 4.8 percent) continued to be underfunded in 2015.

The top three U.S. foundation funders of disaster relief and humanitarian aid in 2015 were the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation ($30.7 million, down from $92.2 million in 2014), the Rockefeller Foundation (nearly $10 million, down from $20.1 million), and the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation ($8.2 million, down from $56 million).

The report also found that global funding for disasters and humanitarian crises from foundations, governments, multilateral donors, corporations, and individuals totaled $23 billion in 2015, including $2.2 billion from FEMA, $16.8 billion in official development assistance from member governments of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's Development Assistance Committee, $3.7 billion from non-DAC members to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, at least $50.1 million from corporate giving programs, $15.8 million and $2.9 million from donor-advised funds at Fidelity Charitable and Vanguard Charitable, and $2.2 million and $7.7 million through online platforms Network for Good and GlobalGiving.

"It is encouraging to see the shift toward more strategic disaster funding during this one-year period. We hope this represents a new giving pattern for future years," said CDP president and CEO Robert G. Ottenhoff. "As we continue to see the scope and intensity of disasters increase, we hope the data will motivate organizations to work together to build resilient, stronger communities. Philanthropy needs to do more to balance funding for recovery and preparation with support for immediate relief."

Ottenhoff and Lawrence T. McGill, Foundation Center's vice president for knowledge services, will host a free webinar on November 8 to discuss key findings of the report and demonstrate how the data on the Measuring the State of Disaster Philanthropy Dashboard and Mapping Platform can inform strategic disaster-related giving.

"In the last few months, we've seen numerous disasters — hurricanes, heavy monsoons, wildfires, and earthquakes — cause devastation in the U.S. and across the globe," said Foundation Center president Bradford K. Smith. "And while it's been heartening to see organizations and individuals enthusiastically respond in the immediate aftermath of these events, it's our hope that, armed with this report and the data tools, philanthropists can think more strategically about their disaster-related investments."

"New Disaster Giving Report Shows Funding Shift for Risk Management, Complex Humanitarian Emergencies." Foundation Center and Center for Disaster Philanthropy Press Release 10/24/2017. "Measuring the State of Disaster Philanthropy 2017: Data to Drive Decisions." Foundation Center and Center for Disaster Philanthropy Report 10/24/2017.