Disaster Relief Guide: Top Organizations, Federal & State Relief Resources

By Rosa

Every year thousands of people are faced with the daunting task of piecing their lives back together after a hurricane, flood, tornado, fire or other natural disaster. It’s an overwhelming experience that can leave most lost and confused about what to do next, but there are lifelines to reach out to when confronted with such a devastating tragedy.

Organizations, programs, and other resources are available to anyone that has lived through a natural disaster. Even if you, or someone you know, has not been directly impacted, there are still ways you can help.



How to Get Financial Assistance After a Hurricane, Flood or Storm?


1) Find a natural disaster relief organization


There are a number of relief organizations that provide assistance before, during, and after a natural disaster. Some have an application process, while others typically provide immediate relief in the areas affected by a natural disaster.


American Red Cross: The American Red Cross has been a great ally to those in need during a natural disaster.


  • For those directly impacted by a natural disaster the American Red Cross can offer shelter, food, water, and many other services that are needed in a crisis. If there’s a local office in your area, you can reach out to that office directly and inquire about getting relief after a disaster. You can also check their website for open shelters near you or for other help. To contact them or get help, you can visit the Red Cross site and take a look at services offered near you.
  • If you’re just looking to help, the organization takes donations, or you can even give blood. Giving blood is a great way to help if you’re not able to contribute with a donation to the charity.

Habitat For Humanity: In the wake of a flood, hurricane, tornado or fire, Habitat For Humanity has been there to help families rebuild their homes and restart their life after tragedy.


  • The organization is well known for building new homes for those left homeless after a natural disaster but it’s a common misconception that they only build new housing. If your home was only partially damage in a natural disaster, Habitat For Humanity has services that will help with repairs and supplies for the rebuilding effort.

Additionally, the organization is there for entire communities that are faced with the clean-up of their neighborhoods and some of their international locations offer microloans for home improvements or new developments. To contact the organization or apply for aid, you can check out the Habitat for Humanity application page and take a look at what requirements are needed and how to get started.


  • Even if you’re not directly in need of aid, you can still help the organization and the people who need it most. Habitat For Humanity not only takes monetary donations, but they are also in need of volunteers for rebuilding efforts in US and international locations. They also take donations of building materials, furniture, or other household items that are resold at one of their Habitat For Humanity ReStores and some of the profits are then used to benefit rebuilding and renovation efforts.

You can view all the ways to support the organization by visiting the Habitat for Humanity site.


Salvation Army: In addition to the year-round help the Salvation Army provides to veterans, homeless, and others in need, they are also a lifeline when it comes to emergency relief during a crisis. The salvation army provides food, shelter, medical care, and even counseling services.


  • For news on where the Salvation Army will be helping, you can visit their news page. The organization updates their site regularly as events occur and services become available. Through their site, you can also contact a regional office and the Disaster Director for the region affected by a natural disaster.
  • As with most other relief organizations, you can help the Salvation Army with donations or even volunteer work. All of this ensures the organization is able to fund their services and respond quickly to survivors of a natural disaster.



2) Reach out to Federal and State Natural Disaster Programs


FEMA: FEMA’s mission in the wake of a natural disaster is to respond and help in the recovery process of any region. This includes medical help, food, shelter and number of other services the Federal government provides. Click here to apply for help directly with FEMA.


If you own a home, business or even rent, you may also be able to apply for disaster loans with low-interest from the U.S. Small Business Administration to help with the recovery process and losses that may not be covered by insurance. To take a look at the requirements for this, you can visit the U.S. Small Business Administration site.




3) Consider Crowdfunding for Hurricane, Flood or Storm Damages


At GoFundMe we’ve seen families, friends and communities come together to help others in the wake of a fire, flood, hurricane or storm. Starting a campaign is easy and fast and you can start receiving donations immediately after launching a campaign.


  • Start a natural disaster fundraiser for yourself

If you’ve been directly  impacted by a natural disaster, you can start a fundraiser for yourself and ask for help from your network. You can include pictures and outline what you’ll need help with as you start to recover. The process to start a campaign only takes a few minutes and as soon as you’re done, you can share on Facebook, via email, or even text messages with friends and family.


Take, for example, The One Man Gang’s Flood Relief Fund. When the 2016 Louisiana flood waters receded, it left George’s family home damaged and nearly all their possession ruined. The family were dealt with another blow when their insurance did not cover any of the damages and they were faced with piecing their home back together. George took action and started a GoFundMe campaign that raised over $15,000.



  • Start a crowdfunding campaign for someone you know

If someone you know is facing the aftermath of a natural disaster, you can create a crowdfunding campaign for them. Ask them what they need most and provide donors with a list of what the person may need. Include as much information as you can about their circumstances, how they were affected, and how important it is to support them. To add more transparency, be sure to include your connection to the beneficiary of the campaign and how you plan to get the funds to them.


For some inspiration, take a look at the GoFundMe campaign for Erich Timko and his family. When the family lost their home in a wildfire their friend and Campaign Organizer started a campaign to help the family rebuild their lives and cover short-term expenses as they navigated through the weeks and months following the tragedy. The campaign started with a goal of $5,000 but they exceeded this initial amount and it raised over $25,000 by the time it closed.

The generosity shown by the Timko’s network is just the tip of the tip of the iceberg. You can find thousands of examples of generosity and inspiration by just visiting GoFundMe’s Emergencies category.



  • Start a campaign to help a disaster relief organization


If you’re not directly affected by natural disaster, or know anyone that was directly impacted, you can still support people who may be across the country or world.  GoFundMe allows you to select non-profit organizations as the direct recipients of the funds so you never have to handle the money. The organization can then use the funds to buy supplies or other items for victims or fund recovery efforts. You also don’t have to limit yourself to organizations that help in the U.S.–if there’s a natural disaster outside of the US, you can count on different organizations to help and you can start Certified Charity campaigns to help them in their efforts to support people abroad.

To create a Certified Charity campaign, all you’ll need is the organization’s name or Tax ID. To search for an organization and start a campaign, you can visit GoFundMe’s Certified Charity directory and enter the name or Tax ID for the organization.


As with Personal campaigns, there’s no shortage of examples on GoFundMe. Just take a look at the campaign made by Dave for disaster relief efforts after tornadoes struck Washington, IL. Dave raised $3,000 to go directly to Hands Of Light, a disaster relief non-profit organization that was in the midst of supplying key resources and medical treatment to residents of the area.




Get Help with Disaster Damage Costs


A flood, hurricane, tornado, or any other natural disaster can strike without any warning and leave immense tragedy in its wake, but recovering and rebuilding after such a disaster can be accomplished through a communal effort. If you are faced with such a tragedy, remember there are resources and lifelines for you. And for those of us that are lucky enough to avoid a natural disaster, there’s still some way to help others that may have been less fortunate. The key thing to remember is to act quickly and ask for help from all networks available to you.


You can launch a GoFundMe emergency crowdfunding campaign now and start working towards recovery and relief efforts.


Affected by Hurricane Irma or Hurricane Harvey? Learn more here.


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