SEPTEMBER 12, 2018


At The Lady With The Big Ask, we usually focus on giving you the tools to ask for what you need - but on 
behalf of the folks facing hurricanes Florence and Olivia, I’d like to make today’s Big Ask about what they need…

When natural disasters hit, I always get a ton of calls and emails from people asking what they should do - what organization helps victims the most, should they send money or clothes, and if it’s better to donate or volunteer – and the right answer is: There’s no wrong answer.

But to avoid being overwhelmed by your options, here’s something to bear in mind: When it comes to a major natural disaster, there are three phases of response:  Rescue, Relief, and Recovery.  They all need support, and focusing your efforts on a phase that really resonates with you can make the difference in how you feel about your donations of time or money.
Let’s start with the Rescue Phase.  
This is first-responder work, focused on getting endangered people to safety and giving them medical attention, food, and water. It is usually conducted by professionals and highly trained volunteers – who also need shelter and food to do their work.  Local first responders include police, firefighters, and medical organizations in the stricken area, but there are also major nonprofits to support such as:

  • American Red Cross
  • The Red Cross deploys workers to affected regions, opens evacuation shelters, and provides lifesaving supplies including emergency response vehicles and meals, all of which are extremely costly.  You can also consider donating blood to directly help the injured.
    • 1-800-HELP NOW (1-800-435-7669) or text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate money or find out where a local volunteer event may be happening!
    • Website:

  • The Salvation Army
  • The Salvation Army has immediate response mobile feeding units and field kitchens able to provide tens of thousands of meals for both disaster victims and rescue workers.  The Salvation Army also provides clean-up kits, hygiene kits, drinking  water, shower units, first aid supplies, and emotional/spiritual care. 
    • 1-800-SAL-ARMY (1-800-725-2769) to donate or be part of a clothing drive or other event!
    • Website: salvationarmyusa

The Relief Phase is next, and provides short-term shelter, food, and clothing to displaced victims. The American Red Cross and Salvation Army both do strong work in this area as well, but many affected communities will also establish local relief funds to support intra-community efforts to look after each other, and those are often very rewarding to support.  Of course, major nonprofits also deliver invaluable service in this phase – and one of my favorites is:

  • Feeding America  
  • The Feeding America network comprises more than 200 food banks distributing assistance through over 61,000 local agencies.  When a food bank in a disaster area is affected, they can reach out to their other banks to ensure food is made available.  Feeding America also works closely with emergency feeding centers operated by partner organizations the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army, so your support has aggregate impact! 
  • Call 1-800-910-5524 to find out where to give, and what they need most!
  • Website:

The Recovery Phase rebuilds and replaces what has been destroyed. This is a long-term phase, as evidenced by the rebuilding still taking place in Puerto Rico and Houston after last years’ storms. Local communities may establish their own rebuilding efforts or funds, and will promote them online or in the media, making it easy to donate.  And for those who really like to get hands-on, I can say from personal experience that personally building a home for disaster victims is deeply rewarding, and I encourage anyone who can lift a hammer (or make a donation) to reach out to: 

  • Habitat for Humanity 
  • Habitat for Humanity does amazing work every day building much-needed homes throughout the country and the world.  As soon as a disaster strikes, their team gets to work determining the impact and responding  to housing needs.  Volunteering or making a donation both deliver enormous positive impact on victims’ lives. 
    • Call  1-800-HABITAT (1-800-422-4828) to find out what you can do to help!
    • Website:

As we all nervously watch the news, wondering and worrying about the potential impact of these latest hurricanes, it may not feel like “enough” to just write a check or make an online donation.  But every single dollar given to the organizations, workers, and rescue teams that are putting themselves on the line is incredibly helpful and essential to their ultimate success.

To deliver an even bigger impact, think about talking to your job, kid’s school, parish, or congregation, and spearheading a fundraising drive.  Together you could raise thousands or more!

Now is the time to do something.  Donate or volunteer. Reach out within your own community and work together to raise money, or volunteer as a group. There’s no wrong choice, and you have the potential to help change people’s lives – or even save them! 

So don’t wait - Get your Big Ask in gear and be part of Making A Difference!  

~ Lisa

​​Professional philanthropy means I've spent my entire career facing Big Asks, and I'm proud to say that Big Asks aren't only manageable - you can even learn to love them!

THE LADY WITH THE BIG ASK is here to teach you what it takes to ask for what you want and get it - from donors, board members, bosses, coworkers, employees, and in your life.


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