As part of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Center for International Disaster Information (CIDI) guides and informs the public, religious and community groups, diaspora, embassies, non-profits, corporations, and governmental organizations about the most effective ways to support international disaster relief and donations outreach.

Mission and Goals

USAID CIDI provides resources and conducts public awareness activities designed to empower donors to help people affected by disasters overseas. Through outreach, partnerships, and our annual student PSA the PSAid competition, we support donors and relief agencies as they work together to provide essential relief to disaster victims quickly, effectively, and economically.

USAID CIDI‘s Guidelines for Appropriate International Disaster Donations have been adopted in some form by nearly every key player in the international donations management arena, including federal and local government agencies and coalitions of relief and development organizations.

Learn more about how you can make an impact. Our situation reports, donations advice, guidelines, volunteer guidance, and articles provide details about international disaster relief and how the public can support it.


($ Millions)

Over the past 25 years, USAID has provided more than $13 million to support the Center. This support has allowed USAID to help change the way Americans look at monetary donations by creating several high-profile media campaigns to encourage the public to donate responsibly. As a result of USAID CIDI’s PSAid contest and its work with the AdCouncil, major TV networks ran USAID-sponsored PSAs during peak viewing times—at no charge—resulting in millions of dollars of free air time (donated media) for USAID and other critical donations for USAID partners.

Cash is Best

USAID CIDI coined the phrase “Cash is Best” in 1988. For more than 25 years, this tagline has been used by domestic and international relief agencies, U.N. organizations, the White House, and federal agencies to promote effective public support of disaster relief.

CIDI’S Fact Sheet


USAID created CIDI in 1988 one month after Hurricane Gilbert—a Category 5 storm—made landfall, affecting 10 countries.  An outpouring of unsolicited donations took up space needed to  stage and deliver vital relief supplies, and responders spent valuable  time and resources managing unneeded clothing, expired medicine, and other unnecessary supplies.  USAID established CIDI with the goal of educating the public about how best to give when disaster strikes overseas.

Decades of experience with donors, donations, and relief efforts  have shown us that monetary contributions to proven relief agencies give the best support to people affected by disasters. They ensure that supplies are fresh and familiar to survivors, that provisions arrive quickly and that goods are culturally, nutritionally and environmentally appropriate. No unsolicited material donation can do as much good as quickly and at such low cost, with as little hassle for donors, recipients and, in the case of international disaster response, host countries. Even tiny cash donations can do a great deal of good, as relief organizations can  exercise bulk buying power to serve more people.

Compassionate people feel the suffering of others deeply and want to help in a personal way. For some, canned food, bottled water and used clothing are more satisfying to send because they are tangible, personal items one might give to a friend in need. Every disaster is unique, though, and affects survivors uniquely. Frequently, clean water, food and clothing are available near the disaster site, and sending more can get in the way of staging and delivering life-saving supplies. Uninvited donations take relief workers’ time to manage and may put local merchants out of business, creating a second, economic disaster. They are also exponentially more expensive to send, incur more costs every time they change hands and leave a big carbon footprint in their wake. In addition to helping more people at lower cost, monetary donations are used to set up medical clinics, reunite family members and provide shelter and other services which are vital to survivors.