Between Jan. 1 and Aug. 18, 2021, 40,848 fires in the U.S. have burned nearly 4.3 million acres. These numbers will only increase as the current fires rage on and more ignite through the fire season. Year after year, the number and intensity of fires in the American West has increased as communities struggle to recover from previous disasters. This is just one example of how communities that are often hardest hit are also the most vulnerable to future disasters, making it difficult -- and sometimes impossible -- to fully recover.

Long-term Recovery Groups (LTRGs) are uniquely designed to address these challenges, and will be increasingly important as climate change intensifies and increases the frequency of weather-related disasters. LTRGs play an important role before and after disasters strike, but often need philanthropic support to sustain their work. 

In this recap of Hidden Gems: Funding Long-term Recovery Groups, a webinar recently hosted by the Center for  Disaster Philanthropy, learn about the benefits of supporting LTRGs and how you can be an effective donor.

CDP Director of Learning and Partnerships Tanya Gulliver-Garcia moderated the discussion and panelists included: Sally Ray, Director of Domestic Funds, CDP; Cari Cullen, Director, Midwest Early Recovery Fund, CDP; and Carlene Anders, Executive Director, Disaster Leadership Team.

What Are Long-term Recovery Groups?

LTRGs are local coalitions dedicated to helping communities -- particularly underserved community members -- in the wake of a disaster. LTRGs can include representatives from faith-based organizations, nonprofits, government, business, and other organizations working in communities. Gulliver-Garcia explained that LTRGs “... are varied in their structure as the communities are, and the personality and operation of each group is unique and it reflects local needs… But the goal is pretty much always the same: To provide coordinated services to enable everyone in the community to recover.”

Why Support Long-term Recovery Groups?

Communities deal with the aftermath of disasters for years, but data show that private giving stops after six months. While recovery is ongoing, other disasters are likely to hit, especially as climate change intensifies and increases the frequency of weather-related disasters. LTRGs are uniquely designed to address long-term needs and build the resilience and immediate response needed to address new disasters that will inevitably come. 

How to Support Long-term Recovery Groups

Considerations for Funders

  • Inclusion: LTRGs should reflect the community they aim to serve. If the leadership of an LTRG seems out of touch with the local population, they are not the best fit for the deeply personal work that is needed for real recovery. 
  • Support: Community trust is key for the success of the LTRG. If the community, the local government, or prominent local leaders don’t support an LTRG, they will not achieve their goal. 
  • Capacity: The work that is carried out by LTRGs requires extensive resources including human capital. These groups cannot reach their full potential without financing for staff and other necessities. Funders should step up to meet the capacity needs of under-resourced LTRGs that meet the above criteria. 

Roles for Funders

  • Convening and Connecting: Donors can use their networks to help bring together resources and funding. Utilizing existing relationships to bring together groups that normally work in silos is an essential service that funders can provide. 
  • Participation: As Cullen said  “Be a part of a long-term recovery group. Play the role of fiscal agent. Support infrastructure and administration of the long-term recovery group.”
  • Platform: Draw additional attention to community needs and advocate for resources.
  • Don't wait for a disaster to happen: Jump in right now, before disasters happen, and plan for those disasters. That might mean finding an existing LTRG in your community or helping to form one. 
  • Make X=Y: Seek out available information and data instead of insisting on entirely new or reformatted information for your decision making. Reduce the burden on the group and preserve resources by using what is already available.  

Don’ts for Funders

Avoid these “red flag” behaviors:

  • Asking for specific information about or access to those served by the LTRG
  • Restricting how funds are used by the LTRG, particularly related to excessive reporting and communication
  • Expecting the LTRG to serve other needs outside of recovery

Watch the full webinar at the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.