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For Professional Advisors

Disaster giving: Perspectives for your clients

Both the recent one-year anniversary of the start of the Ukraine conflict and the earthquake that has devastated Turkey and Syria are causing more and more people to explore ways they can help. In an era of abundant giving methods and (sadly) potential fraud, the community foundation is a source of reliability and expediency to help your clients act on their charitable instincts. 

Disaster giving frequently takes the form of a wide-ranging response, given that disasters can occur suddenly or over time, domestically and internationally. The damage can be heart-wrenching, such as loss of life and property destruction, or health-related, like Covid that has swept the globe. The urge to help is often immediate. 

How the community foundation can help your clients

Your clients likely have questions about making international gifts. The tax deductibility of gifts to international organizations has long been the subject of complicated rules. Donors must navigate a web of laws and regulations, especially if a donor decides to venture into making direct grants to organizations in the affected region. For that reason, the community foundation helps your clients give to a United States 501(c)(3) organization that is working in the affected region. Our team has the background and expertise to identify and vet various United States-based organizations that can receive tax-deductible contributions from your clients’ funds at the community foundation and then deploy those resources to help with Ukraine, Turkey, Syria, and other international concerns.    

The community foundation can help your clients steer clear of scams perpetrated via familiar-looking but sham websites and QR codes, both of which proliferate during highly emotional or threatening times surrounding a disaster. While your clients may be tempted to make a gift online or by phone out of compassion in response to a verbal solicitation or a news story, remind them that the community foundation has much to offer—safely, securely, and advantageously—when it’s time to make impactful humanitarian gifts both here and abroad. 

As your clients explore ways to help internationally, consider reminding them that our community is also experiencing critical needs. Although these critical needs do not always take the form of a time-bound disaster, the impact of ongoing crises such as low access to health care and poverty can be quite damaging to the people in our region over the long term.  

What is disaster giving?

Context may help here. Although challenging to pinpoint holistically, what’s typically referred to as “disaster giving” is perhaps best thought of as a subset of what has been a robust philanthropic climate in recent years. In 2021, Americans’ charitable giving reported by Giving USA was up 4% over 2020 to nearly $485 billion. Certainly the strong percentage increases in the categories of Human Service, Public-Society Benefit (up 23%, the second-highest percentage gain) and Health all likely involved Covid-related concerns and sentiments. 

An emerging area of challenge may be annual giving to international affairs, which declined approximately 5% from 2019 to 2021, finishing at $27.4 billion. Of course, these figures could change for 2022 when accounting for aid to Ukraine (and in future reports, to Turkey and Syria). As context, through February 2023, U.S. government aid to Ukraine has exceeded $75 billion, including 40% for humanitarian and financial purposes and the remainder for the military. Philanthropy also contributed to humanitarian needs; the 10 largest private donations, led by Microsoft, totaled more than $1.2 billion.