Voices From Our Volunteers

How Latter-day Saint Charities Responds to Emergencies

Church volunteers wearing Helping Hands shirts help clean up after a disaster.

What happens when disaster strikes? How does The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints respond? As the humanitarian arm of a worldwide church, Latter-day Saint Charities responds to emergencies and needs all over the world. Some of these emergencies require massive coordination with other partners. Others can be addressed by Church members working together to give service.

How to Assess the Magnitude

Emergencies take various forms. Latter-day Saint Charities works through geographic ecclesiastical groupings known as “areas.” Church areas have access to funds and resources, and Latter-day Saint Charitiess becomes involved to provide immediate, short-term, life-sustaining support.

To respond to larger emergencies, Latter-day Saint Charities often works with global partners. We frequently receive proposals and requests from global partner agencies to provide funds, goods, services, or a combination of resources. We vet all local and global partners to ensure we’re using donated funds appropriately and effectively.

General Emergency Response Principles

Once we understand the magnitude of the emergency, Latter-day Saint Charities determines how to respond. The following are some principles we use to further evaluate emergencies:

  • Local efforts. Purchasing supplies locally can speed up response efforts; reduce the costs of transportation, warehousing, customs, and so on; provide locally known and preferred products; boost struggling economies; and reduce the overall cost of project implementation. As monitored, direct cash assistance to individuals can provide freedom to select needed items and ultimately reduce waste and fraud.
  • Volunteerism. One of the greatest strengths of Latter-day Saint Charities is our ability to involve members of the Church in emergency response efforts. This ability makes us unique among emergency responders and agencies. We encourage Church areas to involve member volunteers where possible, and we ask members to respond only as directed by local priesthood leaders. In locations with few members, local and global partners are leveraged to do work we otherwise would be unable to perform. Latter-day Saint Charities asks all volunteers to not mix religious proselyting efforts with our humanitarian projects.
  • Sustaining life. The intent of emergency response projects is to sustain life and to care for those in greatest need. We give priority to life-sustaining efforts when disaster strikes.

“Many Church members have inquired how they can provide additional assistance. Members may contribute to the Church Humanitarian Fund using the Tithing and Other Offerings donations slip. We also invite Church units, families, and individuals to participate in … relief projects, where practical” (First Presidency letter, Oct. 27, 2015).

For more information about Latter-day Saint Charities’ emergency response efforts, you can visit the Emergency Response page of our website, where we post links to stories and more information about our work.