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Fact Sheet

May 2013

For more information, please contact:

Taina Alexander

Program Manager Membership & Standards InterAction

Material Donations in Disaster Settings

When a disaster strikes, it is important to know what material donations will be appropri- ate, and to communicate this need to the public. InterAction has pulled together the following checklist to go through when considering material donations. InterAction members serve as examples of professional humanitarian actors by handling gift-in- kind donations within the scope of InterAction standards and best practices within the industry.

Messaging to donors:

  • 1. Let donors know about the power and flexibility of a monetary donation. This

messaging should be positive and empowering. For more information about messaging around monetary donations, look over the Donating to Disaster Relief Toolkit.” 1

  • 2. Let your donors and supporters know what material donations you need.

  • 3. If your supporters have goods to donate that you do not need, provide alterna-

tive options for what they can do, such as hosting a local yard sale to collect proceeds

for a monetary donation. For some examples on how to do this, see CIDI’s fact sheets “55 Ways to Repurpose Materials” 2 and “Material Donations How-To.” 3

  • 4. Be transparent about how you will use all donations, whether monetary or ma-


Assisting beneficiaries:

  • 1. Consult with agencies and personnel in the disaster zone to determine the

types and quantities of material assistance needed.

  • 2. Consider whether goods can be bought locally before accepting or shipping

material donations. This will support the local economy and ensure local ports and in-

frastructure will not be overwhelmed.

  • 3. Decide which donations to accept and ship based on what will benefit those af-

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fected by the disaster, not because of donor interests.

Coordinating with stakeholders:

Work with community leaders and other local and international humanitarian organiza- tions to assure prompt action and an effective allocation of resources, and to avoid any duplication of efforts.


Handling, shipping and delivering material donations:

  • 1. Ensure that someone will be on site at the final destination to act as a consignee. Your consignee should review and approve your planned shipment before you send anything. Choose someone trustworthy.

  • 2. Secure the services of an experienced customs agent.

  • 3. Store goods in a secured warehouse.

  • 4. Plan how you will effectively deliver goods. They should reach the intended beneficiaries within an appro- priate time frame and remain protected against theft, contamination and waste throughout the process.

Distributing material donations:

  • 1. Ensure that assistance is provided on a nondiscriminatory basis, according to the humanitarian principle of impartiality. Material assistance in disaster response should be distributed without regard to an individ- ual’s politics or religion, while favoring those most in need based on assessments.

  • 2. Distribute material aid in a manner intended to: support and enhance local knowledge and productive ca- pacity; reduce vulnerability to future disasters; and lay the basis for recovery and long-term development.

  • 3. Distribute material assistance in a manner that minimizes disruption of local markets and does not hinder their recovery. According to Sphere standards 4 , members should “identify which items can be sourced lo- cally and obtained by the affected population themselves through the provision of cash or voucher assis- tance.”

  • 4. Make every effort to distribute material goods in a manner and environment that is safe and secure, and does not endanger the physical safety of either the recipients or the distributors.

Finishing well:

While it is essential to provide lifesaving relief in the wake of a disaster, it is also necessary to form an exit plan:

seek to transition away from providing material assistance as quickly as possible following a specific disaster to

avoid creating dependencies. According to Sphere standards, “free distributions are introduced when assessed to

be necessary, targeted to those who need the assistance most and discontinued when beneficiaries have recov-

ered the ability to produce or access their needs through other means.”

Agencies engaged in disaster response should also be guided and informed by the Sphere Project’s Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Disaster Response 5 .

For specific guidance on food aid in disaster response, see InterAction’s “Guidelines to Food Aid Standards,” par- agraph 7.14.9. 6

  • 1 “Donating to Disaster Relief Toolkit,” CIDI, InterAction, National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, UPS and USAID., username disasterrelief, password co@lition123.

  • 2 “55 Repurposing Ideas,” CIDI.
    3 “Material Donations How-To,” CIDI and USAID.

  • 4 Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Response ,” The Sphere Project.
    5 Ibid.

  • 6 “Guidelines to Food Aid Standards,” InterAction.