August 27, 2020
When disaster strikes, team members, customers, community stakeholders, and senior business leaders all want to know what the company should do to respond. The greater the impact of the disaster on team members, the more options need to be weighed, ultimately increasing the complexity of the disaster assessment and final decision-making process. Should priority be placed on donating to a national disaster relief charity or a local charity? Is there a need to support impacted team members first or will support of the community at large suffice? Choosing the right response will vary by company and scale of disaster, but here are a few things to consider each time this decision is awaiting.
During times of disaster, it is not uncommon for team members to question why their employers contribute large amounts to national charities but neglect to support their own in times of crises. Employers can avoid these valid concerns and proactively prepare to help team members through hardship and disaster by establishing and supporting a Disaster & Hardship Relief Fund.
Relief funds are a critical element to holistically approaching disaster relief. By donating to the relief fund, sponsoring organizations are reducing the burden of other disaster relief charities by providing a significantly more efficient and low-cost method of assisting those in need. A well administered disaster & hardship relief program also requires substantially less overhead, allowing for timely and effective results to those in need.
Typically, the majority of donations occur within the first six weeks following a disaster. Companies usually race to announce their donation response within the first 48 hours to a week. Media coverage is typically highest during this time-frame creating a high degree of community interest and awareness of company response efforts.
These giving timelines should be considered whenever you decide your corporate disaster response because decision making must be timely in order to be relevant. The type of response chosen may require extra work from the relief manager and team: assessing impact, activating giving avenues, and communicating giving avenues, among other things. Ensuring there is an appropriate amount of time to execute a timely response is key to the overall success of disaster relief.
However, short-term aid does not substantiate long-term repair and recovery. This is when the disaster is so significant that the damage is often large scale and impossible to rectify within a few months. For example, after a massive flood in the short-term people need to be rescued and provided basic needs, but long-term people need assistance rebuilding and replacing what was lost. The latter can sometimes take years to complete.
Plan ahead and decide what type of disasters require short-term aid and which require long-term repair, or both. Establish relationships now with the nonprofit organizations that can be instrumental in different response scenarios. This will allow you to shorten your response time once disaster strikes, while maintaining confidence that the disaster response decided will in-fact be effective.
Once planned, remember a company cannot be successful without its team members. It is wise to ensure team members are both engaged in the response efforts and taken care of if the disaster has impacted them.
A company match of team member donations raised through the relief fund is a short-term effort that can be decided and announced quickly to the public. It gives team members a target to reach and will help engage them in the disaster & hardship relief campaign. For long-term efforts, send follow-up communications to team members throughout the months following the disaster with data about relief efforts. Inform them of new needs as they arise and detail how their contribution can help. Pair this with in-kind donation and volunteer opportunities as appropriate and team members will feel they had a direct role in the company’s disaster response and it will fuel their pride.
Overall, considering these tips will help relief fund managers navigate through the disaster response decision-making process and result in corporate response efforts all stakeholders - internal and external - can be proud of.