Grantmakers without borders – The tsunami – making giving tell

Less than a week after a tsunami devastated communities across the Indian Ocean rim, the news of ineffectual responses and resources misspent by international relief organizations began to appear in the US media. NGOs with no experience of disaster response or of the affected regions were raising funds and setting up shop in complex situations of which they were completely ignorant – a failsafe route to another disaster.

As a philanthropic network that guides donors to effective global giving, Grantmakers Without Borders (Gw/oB) moved quickly, in consultation with our 350-strong membership, to develop a list of organizations that we felt would be excellent options for strategic grantmaking in a time of crisis. We sought organizations fitting a variety of criteria. They needed to have a proven track record in the region. If they were US-based organizations, they needed to be working with and through local organizations with which they had had long-term relationships. With few exceptions, they needed to be focused on medium- to long-term rehabilitation. Ideally, they would look beyond service provision to long-term structural and systemic change. Gw/oB continues to update the list as the situation evolves.

Learning from the crisis

On another front, Gw/oB has launched a learning project around the tsunami crisis with two aims. First, we want to document good practice in disaster response, both in terms of grantmaking and of the efforts of grassroots groups on the ground. Our hope is to gather case studies and analysis that can help grantmakers better understand their role and potential for impact when responding to natural disasters. Second, we hope to gather positive stories of effective response to the disaster that we can get out to the media as a counter to the many negative reports of ineffectual response and wasted resources. The private grantmaking community has an important role to play in natural disaster response. Through this project, we hope to show how.

For more information about Gw/oB and its Strategic Plan, contact Executive Director John Harvey at

Grantmakers Without Borders
PO Box 181282
Boston, MA 02118, USA
Tel +1 617 794-2253

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