World Tsunami Awareness Day: Here’s How Crowdfunding Can Help You In Disaster Relief

By: Malini Bhattacharya

Published On: June 25, 2018

On World Tsunami Awarness Day 2018, we discuss how you can use the power of crowdfunding to fundraise to help disaster victims 

Modern earth sciences have progressed far enough that we have arrived at a place to be able to second guess Nature. Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis or tidal waves, and cyclones and hurricanes can be predicted by meteorologists with some degree of accuracy. 

But despite all the knowledge we have about how Nature works and when we can expect to come under her fury, we cannot escape natural disaster. Ways to prevent massive storms and floods and landslides are as yet unknown to us. 

What are events that qualify as disasters? 

Here’s a quick definition: 

Ordinarily, a disaster comes without warning, and has an element of shock connected with its unfolding. It causes great damage or loss (usually both) to human life, flora and fauna, or property in the region it affects. 

In recent years, the Bhuj (Gujarat) earthquake of 2001, the Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004, the Kashmir earthquake of 2013, the Kosi River floods in Bihar in 2005, and the 2017 West Bengal floods have claimed thousands of lives in India alone. The Nepal (2015) and Myanmar (2016) earthquakes, a stone’s throw from Indian borders, have also resulted in massive loss of lives. Bhuj-earthquake-2001              A still from the Bhuj Earthquake 2001

What we can do as intelligent beings is to plan for disasters, some of which, such as heavy monsoonal rains in tropical regions, are cyclical. We may not be able to avert a disaster or control the havoc they wreak, but we can do a better job of responding to them

This is also true of our approach to managing man made disasters like fires, road accidents, oil and chemical spills, nuclear accidents, recessions, and war, through disaster relief operations.

Sending humanitarian aid to victims of a disaster is a difficult, albeit essential, task on the hands of not just governments, disaster relief organizations and ruling bodies, but also on the people who live in the communities bordering the affected areas. 

It is a question of ethical responsibility, and indeed, in the wake of disaster, through the ages, humans everywhere have responded with striking empathy and compassion to lift up their stricken brothers and sisters and their children from amid danger, brutality and squalor, into safety, into warmth, into the glow of welfare. disaster-relief-operation             People helping others during a disaster relief operation 

People are at their most generous in the aftermath of a disaster. It is not difficult to understand this giving behavior, because evidence of other humans’ suffering is splashed all over the mainstream and social media; one only has to stop a moment and take a look to be moved by what they see, and most of this segment who can afford it end up making a donation. 

Also, interestingly, the global middle-class tends to rise to the occasion and make the most donations to charity in the aftermath of disaster, donating in cash and in kind, but usually to direct aid organization whose disaster relief volunteers are on the disaster site, working to allay victims’ suffering first hand. 

Finally - and this is true of all who give to help with reconstruction after a disaster - donors give both in cash and kind, which sometimes poses problems of identifying the places where the things donated are needed, how much of them are in demand, and shipping costs and arrangements for these items. 

Disaster relief organizations who receive in kind endowments from people and channel them to those in need have lately been assertive about preferring cash donations.

Disaster crowdfunding: The two ways to help disaster victims

crowdfunding-for-disaster-reliefWith gifts of money made to disaster relief projects, there are two ways to help disaster victims with funds:

Unrestricted, flexible funds: These are gifts of cash that charitable and philanthropic organizations accept in order to drive relief impact in disaster laden areas. 

The contributor has no control over how their gift will be used, or where, and to benefit whom, in what way. With an unrestricted gift, relief organizations are able to channel money when and where it is most needed on a priority basis. 

Crowdfunded pools of funds

Crowdfunding platforms have quickly joined forces with disaster relief organizations and other nonprofits as they raise funds for bringing relief to disaster-ridden areas in India and abroad. 

With crowdfunding, a donor, one of many, typically makes a relatively smaller gift of cash to a disaster relief project with clearly defined aims and a discreet fund utilization plan. The donor has clear visibility on how their gift is making a difference to the lives of strangers far away.

Crowdfunding disaster reliefcrowdfunding-for-disaster-reliefWhat kind of aid is most needed at a disaster site when the worst is over, and disaster relief volunteers are beginning the onerous task of ? What can you purchase with funds you have raised through emergency crowdfunding efforts that can be used up immediately, anywhere in the world, no matter what kind of tragedy has struck the people there? 
Here’s a look at areas in which emergency crowdfunding can help you to provide relief to victims of a natural disaster:

Clean water

The first thing that disaster areas begin to suffer is a shortfall of clean water, both for drinking and for sanitation purposes. The rule of thumb, when a charitable organization distributes water pouches in disaster-struck areas as relief operations begin, is to allocate one gallon of water per day, per adult, to cover these life necessities. Children use three-quarters of a gallon. 

Non perishable food

By definition, non-perishable foods will keep for anywhere between six and twelve months, and at least in Western nations, include bulk tinned and canned food. 

In India, commonly distributed food items in the wake of disaster include crackers, puffed and flattened rice, some kinds of roasted flatbreads, nuts, and dry fruit.victims-of-hurricane-harvey             Disaster relief team providing food to victims of Hurricane Harvey


Diarrhea and fevers are the quickest to affect victims of flooding disasters. At earthquake sites, and in the case of avalanches or landslides or fires, victims may have undergone injuries that involve fractures and cuts and bruises that inflict terrible pain. 

Paracetamol and analgesic tablets as well as bottled hydrating, energizing high sugar drinks can never be out of place. 

Feminine hygiene supplies

This is self explanatory. To help with personal sanitation, moist towelettes are also helpful.


The greater part of people who are affected by sudden natural disaster have no time to pack a kit of essentials to take with them, let alone a change of clothing. They simply have to flee the fury of Nature. 

Gifts made to them of old but wearable clothing, both for children and adults, can help immeasurably to live through their thin times with some dignity and relative ease.Victims picking out clothes at a disaster-relief site

Children’s items

Restoration and rehabilitation for victims of large scale natural disasters may take up to months, and to undo whatever damage was done may take years. 

In the interim period, many victims of such disasters may have to spend time in relief camps, and begin to reassemble their lives together, sending children to (often makeshift schools), exploring alternative options for earning livelihoods, and even finding new, low-cost options for recreation within the camps. 

Donating toys, board games, crayons and coloring books and items of the ilk to relief efforts after a natural disaster has happened can allow a semblance of normalcy to come about into life after the disaster. 

Household goods

To this category of gifts made to disaster victims also, the above logic applies. Since so many people have to begin housekeeping from scratch, or may have to set up their own little corner as a family at a relief camp for an indefinite period, sending essential household goods like blankets, sheets, pillows, mattresses, plastic crockery, toilet paper, detergent, and flashlights can make a world of difference.

The benefits of crowdfunding disaster relief


Crowdfunding is quick: About $25000 have been raised on a GoFundMe disaster relief campaign to buy a mobile home for a Texas senior citizen called Hewitt Bauguss in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. 

Read: Want To Know More About Crowdfunding? Here's A Simple Explanation!

We have observed this pattern in Indian crowdfunding in general, with donors pouring in funds in under a week to meet huge fundraising goals to help sick and deprived people alike, as well those fighting the aftermath of disaster. 

Crowdfunding lets donor and beneficiary connect

Crowdfunding microsites or pages for each campaigner don’t just contain a statement of their need, but a real story told from their point of view, wealth of detail, and often anecdotal information that helps the donor make an emotional connect with the campaigner.

Photos and videos of the disaster site help move many prospective donors and make the difference between a gift and none.

Crowdfunding will cost you the least to fundraise to help disaster victims

Crowdfunding is cheaper than traditional, offline forms of fundraising because it comes without overhead costs, and can be accomplished only by social media sharing

Most platforms only collect a service fee at the end of a campaign. This way, you can send the greatest part of funds you have raised to the people rendered destitute and helpless by the disaster in question. 

A case study

In early 2016, World Vision India raised funds with Impact Guru to help send aid to many parts of the city of Chennai affected by a flash flood. This sudden, unforeseen disaster was the result of three days of continuous and heavy rainfall. The calamity had claimed the lives of 79 people due to waterborne diseases and infections. 


             Locals wading through waist-deep water during the Chennai Floods 2015

Parts of the city had been inaccessible for nearly a week, making it a challenge for relief workers to get close enough to stranded humans and animals to help them in any way. 

World Vision India made it their mission to distribute food and water packets across the city. They were able to reach 10000 men, women, and children. They also set up 13 relief kiosks, manned by health aid workers, where people were also able to collect food packets and hygiene and household goods supplies. 

The organization raised Rs. 284527, surpassing their target of Rs. 2 lakhs, and helped made a difference especially to the lives of the poor at a difficult time. 

Crowdfunding is slowly but surely assuming an important role in disaster relief, letting everyone who has some little cash gift to make to come up and give it to help contain the wreckage. 

Crowdfunding makes giving easy, so even if we cannot eradicate disaster, we can choose to respond to it in humane ways, together. 

We suggest you also read: 

Crowdfunding in India Simplified And Explained 

Emergency Fundraising: 8 Tips If You Ever Find Yourself Facing One