Like a lot of smaller funders, the 20-year-old McCarthy Family Foundation operated out of Treasurer Tim McCarthy’s home office. He learned a lot of important lessons about disasters the hard way after his home was among the hundreds of properties destroyed in the October 2007 San Diego wildfires.

The foundation had no disaster evacuation or recovery plan. And it is in good company, according to Kris Putnam-Walkerly, president of Putnam Community Investment Consulting, who has helped San Francisco Bay Area funders develop a plan to prepare for a major local disaster. Many organizations large and small have no plan.

In a NCFP teleconference on preparing for and dealing with natural disasters, Putnam-Walkerly outlined basic measures any funder can take to “get your foundation up and running in the event of a disaster.” And it’s not just about protecting records but also about how to be able to continue to support grantees at a time when they may be suffering from the same emergency and have more demand for their services.

Putnam-Walkerly stressed why it’s critical to have a disaster plan. “There’s a lot of ownership that we need to take on as individuals and as organizations to be prepared. We have the assumption that somebody’s going to come save us, but that’s not always the case. It could take days.”

Putnam-Walkerly suggested thinking about the four stages of a disaster as you prepare your plan:

  1. Preparedness: activities undertaken in advance to so you’ll be ready to deal with a disaster.
  2. Response: Activities undertaken during the emergency “so you can make yourselves safe and then respond to community needs.”
  3. Recovery: activities that help an area return to pre-disaster conditions
  4. Mitigation/Reform: activities to help reduce the impact of future disasters

Read the full article about preparing family foundation for a natural disaster by Susan Crites Price at the National Center for Family Philanthropy.