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Newsletter Readers Respond to Katrina: September Question of the Month Results

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, many individuals and organizations focused their energy on helping the survivors of the devastating storm. To learn more about this response, the September Question of the Month asked Newsletter readers, "Have you personally taken or do you plan to take any action in response to Hurricane Katrina?"

An impressive majority of respondents—90 percent—answered that they had done or were planning to do something. Some 60 percent of those readers were associated with a nonprofit that had taken, was taking, or would be taking action in response to Hurricane Katrina.

Many Forms of Aid

Making a personal donation to a nonprofit was the most common way of helping; 44 percent of respondents said that they had made a personal donation to a nonprofit, and 31 percent told us that they plan to do so.

Only 10 percent reported that they had volunteered or were volunteering in relief and recovery efforts, with an additional 8 percent intending to volunteer. This may not be a bad response, according to Melanie Jones of the Sertoma Centre, Inc. She recommends, "Unless you are professionally trained and/or called upon to go to the source of the crisis, it is best to not rush to the scene. That only adds to the confusion. Send money and wait until the services you can provide are needed."

Some 14 percent of participants said they were assisting those affected by Hurricane Katrina in other ways. One anonymous reader related, "I am providing long-term housing and support for 13 extended family members who were displaced by the hurricane." Others, such as Richard Fischer, who is putting students in contact with Iowa schools so they can continue their education there instead, are providing help for people they have never met.

Nonprofit Action

From the Greater Birmingham Humane Society, which is accepting displaced animals from shelters, to the Telamon Corporation, which is working to support seasonal farm workers who will be out of work because of crop losses in Alabama, the methods of responding are as numerous and varied as the needs of the people being helped.

Of the respondents who were associated with a nonprofit that had addressed, was addressing, or will address the needs created by Hurricane Katrina, only 6 percent were on the scene at the beginning of September. Another 11 percent were planning to be there soon. Some 24 percent of participants noted that their organizations were sending supplies to help survivors, whereas another 8 percent were collecting them, and an additional 8 percent were transporting them. Nearly a quarter (24 percent) of respondents reported that their nonprofits were focusing on preparations for long-term recovery.

The Outlook for Future Relief

Emily Furlong of the Rollins College Philanthropy & Nonprofit Leadership Center emphasized the importance of long-term aid: "It has been my experience that the greatest challenges can be the long-term recovery efforts. Once the immediate needs of food, clothing, and shelter are addressed, New Orleans and the entire Gulf Coast will face decades of work in order to fully recover from this disaster. We cannot forget just how much help these people will need for a very long time."

Many respondents encouraged donors to remember the organizations that focus on the local needs that are present regardless of catastrophes, but as Dennis and Donna Crane of the Business Navigation Group stated, "Extraordinary disasters call for extraordinary responses."

Lauren Nicole Klapper-Lehman, October 2005
© 2005, Philanthropic Research, Inc. (GuideStar)

Lauren Klapper-Lehman is an undergraduate at the College of William and Mary. She is currently a communications intern at GuideStar.
Topics: Nonprofit Leadership and Practice