Responding to Harvey with Sound Philanthropy

Private philanthropy stitches together our social fabric. We have a unique American instinct to give to those in need, to support ideas with our dollars, and to privately fund the needs of our communities.

Those of us beyond the reach of Hurricane Harvey’s spinning arms have watched with horror as the rains pour down. It’s hard to watch images of parents carrying their babies through chest high water, or people pulling their pets and salvageable belongings behind on rafts. We are grateful to be out of harm’s way, but we are also eager to do something to help.

In times of disaster, Americans jump into action. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina’s destruction, Americans contributed $6.5 billion to disaster relief. We care beyond on our borders as well. After Haiti’s devastating 2010 earthquake, private giving raised in excess of $4 billion.

Giving in Alignment with Principles

Many of us may feel a natural hesitation about giving in times of great need, worried that funds will not be used appropriately. Unfortunately, not every organization needing resources has the skills, bandwidth, or sadly, the scruples to do an effective job of addressing hardship.

Any charitable gift, of course, carries with it an element of risk. We lower that risk by donating to organizations we know or that have a proven track record. Likewise, it helps to find organizations doing the work you care about most deeply.

Three considerations, then, as you weigh how to help the victims of Hurricane Harvey:

  1. Support organizations you support already. Do you regularly give to your faith’s disaster relief organizations? If you feel connected to their work and trust them, then start there. Likewise with more secular causes you may already support that engage in disaster relief work. Your own trust in a non-profit serves as an excellent first check. Call them or go to the website, confirm they are engaged in helping the Texas recovery effort, and give.
  2. Support organizations doing work in the areas you care about most. If you have a specific focus for your charitable giving, you can still stay “on mission” while supporting disaster relief. If the Wall Street Journal’s cover picture from Monday of a woman and her baby being carried through the water spoke to you, find the organizations that specialize in children and family services. If you are thinking longer term, look for organizations that specialize in the rebuilding aspects of relief. Want to give through your business? Look to organizations like the Chamber of Commerce Foundation, which has a Disaster Help Desk to coordinate aid from companies.
  3. Support organizations that are well known and well credentialed. As conservatives, we want to find organizations that empower people to take their lives back after a disaster, not those that encourage dependence. This is why it is so important to let private philanthropy step in instead of government. If you just want to help and don’t really care where, give to those well-known groups that specialize in disaster relief, such as the Red Cross. Anne MacDonald, a strategic consultant and a veteran of the Haitian earthquake recovery and other disaster relief efforts, notes that donors shouldn’t be shy about giving to the Red Cross. She notes it serves as a sort of “mission control” in these sorts of situations. If you are reticent to give to the Red Cross, find other trusted recommendations. Our friends at State Policy Network are pointing people to San Antonio Food Bank and Texas Public Policy foundation recommends Austin Disaster Relief Network in the wake of Harvey.

Finding Groups to Support

At DonorsTrust, we promote charitable giving to groups that encourage liberty, don’t seek to grow the size and scope of government, and rely on private giving, not government dollars, to do their work. As the long-term aim is the rebuilding of homes and lives that will grow the community’s prosperity after Harvey, it is imperative that we support those groups that share similar visions.

With that in mind, below are some organizations that meet those standards, grouped by cause. You may support these directly or through your DonorsTrust donor-advised fund. We’ll add to this list as other groups come to light, and note that some of these groups certainly cross categories, as many also provide immediate aid.

Immediate Aid

  • Texas Search and Rescue – They search. They rescue. Their work is critical right now.
  • Austin Disaster Relief Network – Our friends at the Texas Public Policy Foundation recommend this organization for immediate, on-the-ground emergency services as well as for longer term engagement to rebuild.
  • San Antonio Food Bank – Working to get food and supplies to those affected around San Antonio
  • Red Cross – Providing food, supplies, and housing.


  • The Texas Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster has a helpful list of predominantly religiously affiliated charities. Rather than list them all here, we can confirm that all the organizations listed among the Partner Members meet DonorsTrust’s standards except for Feeding Texas and Save the Children (both of which receive exceptionally high government support).
  • Operation Blessing – innovative faith-based group that gets volunteers and puts them into action on the ground at disaster sites.

Family & Children

  • Texas Diaper Bank – As recommended by National Review’s Jim Geraghty; this group helps get these essential supplies to families.

Reconstruction and Post-Disaster Recovery

  • Team Rubicon – As promoted in a statement by President George W. Bush, this group relies on the skills and experience of military veterans to provide immediate relief in disaster areas.
  • All Hands Volunteers – Another recommendation from Texas Public Policy, this organization works around the world to quickly get volunteers on the ground after natural disasters.

Animal Welfare

Don’t Forget Your Time

Finally, don’t forget that other commodity, which is your time. Anne MacDonald notes that one of the greatest gifts people can give is to be a neighbor. Whether it is taking displaced folks into your home or deploying to help in person, the gift of your time and energy further strengthens the social fabric in times of need.

After all, whether with our time or money, we give because we believe in the power of community, of neighbor to help neighbor. That ethos is never more important than in times of crisis – times like right now.





The photograph above was taken by The Texas National Guard during Hurricane Harvey and can be found here. It was licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution licence. The views stated above are in no way associated with the photographer or the Texas National Guard.


  • Peter Lipsett

    Peter Lipsett is vice president at DonorsTrust. He also leads DonorsTrust’s Novus Society, a network of donors under 40 committed to growing their philanthropic know-how. He has a dual degree in political science and theater from Davidson College and finally got a practical credential with an MBA from George Mason University.

    View all posts

Start Protecting Your Intent Today.

Are you interested in giving to nonprofits that align with your conservative or libertarian values? If so, consider opening a simple, secure, tax-advantaged giving account with DonorsTrust.