6 Ways You Can Make a Difference After a Disaster

When you read about or see video footage after a disaster do you feel overwhelmed? You know you feel compassion and a desire to help but the situation is probably more complicated than what you alone can manage.

There are plenty of things in this world that each of us would like to change. We want to make a difference for good, but the problems can seem so large that we are unsure where to start. As an Online Communications Specialist here at USAID CIDI, I have spent a great deal of time engaging in online conversations about the most effective ways to help communities after disaster strikes. Some of us don’t know what’s needed, some of us don’t know how to reach those in need, and some of us just don’t know where to begin. And the amount of money cited in appeals by aid agencies can provoke a case of sticker shock.

Want to make a difference in the world? Many times, small and simple is the best way to start. When I want to make a difference, I follow these 6 simple tricks to help people who need it:

  1. Plug into groups that share your interests: Chances are you aren’t the only one driven to help others. Nonprofit coalitions, like InterAction, track development and aid all over the world. InterAction’s members explore common dilemmas and seek solutions, building solidarity.
  2. Send cash to a trusted organization: Are you looking to connect with grassroots projects around the world? Log on and pick your interest! GlobalGiving can connect you with organizations working to educate children, feed the hungry, preserve our environment, build houses, train people in new skills, or do hundreds of other amazing things.
  3. Pictures and Videos Galore!: PSAid is our annual contest, open to the public, that attracts creative Public Service Announcements that encourage Americans to practice Smart Compassion when helping people affected by emergencies. Pick one that speaks to you and help spread the message!
  4. “Connect Before you Collect!”: One of my favorite CIDI phrases promoted by our director, Juanita Rilling, it’s easy to recite and even easier to remember. The next time you‘re participating in a canned food, coat or toy drive, just simply ask, “Have we connected with an organization who’s in need of these items to make sure they’re really needed?”
  5. Volunteer locally: Are you interested in volunteering your skills to help rebuild strong, resilient communities but don’t have any experience? No worries! With organizations like National VOAD, you can work with nonprofit organizations and volunteer your services in all phases of a disaster.
  6. Spread the word, Cash is Best: You can help after disasters by sharing within your community, schools, etc. about needs-based assistance and how Smart Compassion does the most good for the most people quickly! Use our Toolkit for Giving to convey the best way for your community to support international disaster relief.


Smart Compassion is all about making a difference by ensuring that your donation that has a positive impact on survivors and their communities – materially, economically and environmentally. For more information about making a difference in the most effective way, read more about USAID’s Center for International Disaster Information and be a force for good.