May 1, 2024 - Energy & Environment

Natural disaster relief campaigns boom on GoFundMe

Illustration of a person in a suit holding an umbrella made of money

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The pace at which America experiences extreme weather or climate disasters is increasing.

  • In the 1980s, there were an average of 82 days between billion-dollar disasters, defined as events causing at least $1 billion in damage, according to Climate Central, a nonprofit climate science research organization, using National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data.
  • In 2023, it was just 12 days.

The big picture: Here's the silver lining — donations to help friends, neighbors and even strangers navigate these disasters and rebuild from them are also on the rise.

Stunning stat: Over the past five years, there has been a 90% increase in fundraisers for natural disasters on GoFundMe, the platform tells Axios.

  • That represents more than $500 million from more than 4 million donors.

Zoom out: For families trying to recover and rebuild after natural disasters, getting help from the government can be a slow and lengthy process, AP reports.

  • Quick help from loved ones and community members — often through fundraising platforms — can fill critical gaps.

State of play: GoFundMe itself is getting involved with a new Weather Resilience Fund, live this week, that aims to get ahead of disasters by providing preventative tools to families in vulnerable zones.

  • The platform is kicking off the fund with a $1.5 million donation and inviting people around the world to chip in, tax free.

Zoom in: GoFundMe's first project, which begins in June, will use the funds in California's Central Valley and Imperial Valley — two areas dealing with extreme heat.

  • The money will outfit low-income families' homes with air purifiers, ductless mini-split air conditioners, and water filtration systems.
  • Future projects of the fund will target other spots affected by extreme weather and natural disasters.

Reality check: It's not just climate change that's driving the rise in frequency and costs of natural disasters. As the world becomes more populous and more crowded, there are more people and structures affected by hurricanes, tornadoes and beyond.

The bottom line: Responding to the havoc wreaked is becoming a bigger and more expensive problem.

  • "Far too often, the people who can least afford to absorb financial losses are the most impacted," says Amanda Brown Lierman, executive director of GoFundMe.Org.
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