The past several years have seen an unprecedented uptick in catastrophic natural and man-made disasters in the United States. The International Monetary Fund predicts that the rate of natural disasters will continue to rise due to the effects of climate change, with nearly every type of weather event becoming more common by the end of the century. Indeed, a recent Conference Board study demonstrated that companies are anticipating a continued rise in disasters and are updating their disaster response plans to manage more frequent occurrences. 2017 brought the highest costs on record for U.S. weather and climate disasters, with costs exceeding $306 billion. Man-made disasters, such as the monthly – sometimes weekly – mass shootings, the expanding lead water crises, the detention of immigrant communities on the southern U.S. border and the deepening polarization of our political climate are all giving way to a more acute need for communities to respond immediately and collaboratively.
Based on our findings and experience developing cross-sector community solutions, Common Impact has defined the following approach to maximize the impact of private sector support.
Focus on Preparedness
Companies recognize the threat disasters pose to their communities, their employees and business operations. While corporate internal resiliency initiatives have strategically focused on business continuity and risk mitigation, their philanthropy and volunteerism remains largely reactive, spurred only by the latest crisis.
Vulnerable Organizations: A significant preparedness gap exists within the service sector. A 2018 survey by the Nonprofit Association of Oregon found that nearly 90% of the state’s nonprofits recognized a high likelihood of their county experiencing disaster, but over 50% lacked a plan for how to continue operations in the event of such an emergency. These results have been replicated across the country, revealing that the majority of the organizations that support our communities to weather crises are ill-equipped to weather them themselves.
Vulnerable Populations: Individuals that are already economically vulnerable or disenfranchised are disproportionately impacted by disaster. While it can be challenging to think of where to focus your preparedness efforts before disaster strikes, starting with the organizations that support a region’s most vulnerable populations is a safe way to ensure your resiliency investment will make a difference.
Separate Your Response and Resiliency Efforts
Corporate talent is a largely untapped resource in disaster support initiatives. Align your company’s core competencies with your monetary, product and in-kind donations and think strategically about which resources are right for which phase of response. Financial donations are typically the most effective at the moment of crisis. In-kind donations, if there’s an articulated need, can also support in immediate response. Service and volunteerism is often a company’s most powerful tool for resiliency.
You’re Not the Expert
A common refrain among emergency workers is “all disasters begin and end locally.” Familiarizing yourself with local issues and actors before an emergency is on the horizon will provide you with an informed understanding of community needs and enable you to design a holistic, place-based intervention that builds upon existing efforts.
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