Skip to main content

How to Help


After every natural disaster, a call goes out for donations. How do you decide what to give, and which organization to give to?

Hurricane Florence hit several states along on East Coast in September. It brought high winds, heavy rain, and deadly destruction. Unfortunately, natural disasters are common. In 2017, they affected more than 46 million Americans and cost $306 billion, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Hurricanes can be catastrophic catastrophic NICCOLÓ UBALDUCCI PHOTOGRAPHER-STORMCHASER/GETTY IMAGES involving a lot of damage or suffering (adjective) The damage from the tornado was catastrophic. . Because they are tropical storms, which form in oceans and carry water with them, they bring not only tornado-like wind destruction but also flooding.

A HOT MEAL The Red Cross provides a girl in North Carolina with food after Hurricane Matthew.



Most households impacted by a natural disaster have some sort of cost burden. Some families may only lose refrigerated or frozen foods due to power outages. Others may need new furniture or a new roof. Less fortunate families suffer a total loss due to extreme wind and flooding. These families will be displaced displace to force someone to leave his or her home (verb) Thousands of animals were displaced by the wildfire. while rebuilding their home or relocating to a new one. Thankfully, many families have insurance, which can cover some losses suffered during a disaster. Auto, home, and business insurers paid out more than $100 billion in response to natural disasters in the U.S. in 2017. But insurance doesn’t cover everything. There are always immediate needs to be met after a disaster. That can be where your donations count most.


Many local and national organizations run active disaster-relief programs. Have an adult help you find a reputable nonprofit with an established record. Online resources like Charity Navigator and National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster can help you evaluate charities.

Unfortunately, not everyone who is raising money or taking donations after a natural disaster is there to help. Some are scammers. But if you do your research, your donations will go to a family in need. Here are a few ways to help.

  • Give money. After a natural disaster, charities can use your donation to buy whatever they need at the moment. For example, some families might need clothes or baby food, while others need a place to live. When you give money, you’re helping ensure that all of those needs are met. Carrie Housman, a spokesperson at the American Red Cross, says that monetary donations allow them to “provide consistent support to thousands of people at once, including providing meals on a large scale, which requires strategic purchases of food and ingredients in huge quantities.”

  • Give things. When a family has lost their home, they need everything. You can collect and donate goods like clothes, food, and household items. But these types of donations can take a long time to process, transport, sort, and distribute. People in need might not receive your donations immediately.

  • Donate time. Volunteering your time may be possible if you live near a disaster area or an area where shipments of things like food and bottled water are being collected, packaged, and sent. You can also volunteer your time year-round, before disaster strikes, to help organizations prepare in advance.

Family Challenge

Think outside the box! After a disaster, animals need help too. Many charity organizations assist displaced pets. What are some other unusual ways to help?

—By Kathryn Tuggle

Click here for the Grade 4 Teacher’s Guide.

Extra! Click here to read a related article from TIME for Kids.