10 Worst Things to Donate After a Disaster



policeman, blankets, superstorm sandy
A policeman carries blankets donated by Ikea for people affected by Superstorm Sandy. Most blanket donations come from suppliers or businesses. John Moore/Getty Images

After a catastrophic natural disaster, we are bombarded with footage of families and children who have lost everything, often including a loved one, in the tragedy. We wish we could take the survivors into our homes and into our arms for a warm, comforting hug. But when the disaster area is across the country or around the world, we search for ways to express our care and consolation from a distance. A warm cozy blanket seems like the next best thing to a hug.

While it's true that blankets are often critical in recovery efforts, they are seldom in short supply. In Haiti, for example, World Vision stocks blankets, clothes, food and other supplies that meet the standards for humanitarian relief in preparation for hurricane season. When a powerful earthquake struck in 2010, the organization was able to use the supplies in place for that disaster.

After the disastrous 2011 earthquake in Japan, relief workers complained of "too many blankets" and "too many clothes" hampering the cleanup effort. And they're not alone. One estimate suggested that 60 percent of the donations to a disaster site are not needed [source: HolguĂ­n-Veras].

Again, if a relief organization asks for blankets, by all means follow the instructions for packing and shipping the blankets to the right destination. But in most cases, the money and resources will be more efficiently spent if the organization buys blankets directly from suppliers or receives bulk donations from corporations and larger businesses.