Donating during emergencies

When a disaster or crisis strikes, New Zealanders are always keen to help. To make a lasting difference in communities, we ask people to donate money instead of goods.

Why do we need money and not goods?

Often, people want to collect second-hand goods and send them to the affected area.

This approach is not recommended by international experts. In fact, in many situations, they have found it to be damaging and detrimental to those in need.

We support this view, because:

  • Collecting, storing and shipping donated goods takes time. Often, by the time the goods are sent, the emergency relief phase is over and priorities have changed.
  • Unsolicited or unwanted aid, especially containers, can clog up ports and logistics chains. This creates delays, distracting relief staff and resources from more important tasks. This is widely known as the "second disaster". It also means Red Cross is left with large quantities of unneeded goods, sometimes at great cost.
  • An effective way to aid recovery is by restoring livelihoods and local economic activity. Where we can, we source emergency relief goods locally. Importing items can damage local retailers and affect market prices, especially in poorer communities.
  • Years of experience have taught us what emergency aid is needed during a disaster or conflict. We store large quantities of these items in warehouses throughout the world. Across the Pacific, for example, we have more than 80 containers stocked with brand new, standardised items. These are ready to distribute within hours of a disaster. This system means everyone in an affected community gets the same, high-quality items.

Communities recover faster when we source goods locally and use internationally-recognised relief items. This is why we ask for cash instead of goods. Cash is also easier to collect, transfer, distribute and account for.

Why we don't send spontaneous volunteers overseas

Immediately after an overseas disaster, we receive a lot of offers from people wanting to volunteer their time and skills to go overseas to help. Volunteering to go overseas might seem like the most logical thing to do. However, this isn't the best way of getting help where it's needed.

After a disaster, there is a lot of pressure on already-limited resources and infrastructure. Sending volunteers, even if they have useful skills, isn’t the best thing to do.

At Red Cross, we deploy highly-trained experts to help in disaster and conflict situations. Our aid workers undertake extensive training to ensure they understand complex post-disaster situations. This means they have the skills needed to work in challenging emergency environments.

As the world’s largest humanitarian network, Red Cross often has volunteers in the affected community. These local volunteers have the advantage of speaking the language and understanding the culture. Our aid workers work closely with these volunteers to provide help where it’s needed most.

Our approach saves vital time and money. By donating to Red Cross, you can ensure local communities get help in the most effective way.

Interested in becoming an aid worker? We’d like to hear from you.