Ellen J. Moore, ICoF Administrative and Communications Coordinator
In light of the recent flooding across the state, I wanted to remind you of an important disaster philanthropy resource. The Iowa Community Foundations Initiative Disaster Philanthropy Toolkit was developed in 2018. This is a tool for Community Foundations both prior to, during and following disasters. I’d like to share some of my key learnings which were gleaned throughout the development of the resource.
Disaster Determination. This may seem like an odd place to start, but determining what qualifies as a disaster for your community is an important first step. Our disaster definition is included in the toolkit, but discussion of specific definitions for your organization is most important. It provides common ground for staff to talk about disaster and reminds staff of human-made disaster such as economic failure, terrorism or violence, which may need to be addressed by your community foundation as well.
Preparation. Most of the heavy lifting for disaster relief and recovery efforts can be completed prior to the disaster’s occurrence. Materials such as media releases, funding requests to major donors, draft grant agreements, sample grant applications and internal communications can be developed now, with details added when needed for prompt distribution.
Relief and Recovery Differ. Relief is immediate; actions taken to provide assistance to those who are lacking basic human needs is necessary and important work. However, it is the focus for most regional and national disaster relief organizations (i.e. FEMA, Red Cross etc.). Funding for relief is generally instant and often adequate. On the other hand, recovery efforts are longer-term needs focused on healing and rebuilding. This work often goes unfunded or is underfunded. Media coverage of disaster fades quickly, but the effects of a disaster on a community do not. Focusing philanthropic effort on sustainable, long-term recovery efforts is a critically important role community foundations can fill for their communities.
Communication. Creating a plan for both internal and external communications prior to disaster is one of the most effective ways to streamline relief and recovery efforts. Determining key partners in the community and which staff members will assist the communications/marketing team is important to organize prior to disaster.
Please take time to review the toolkit and consider the role your community foundation can be playing now – in preparation, relief or recovery. The toolkit itself will continue to be updated and adjusted with new knowledge and research moving forward. The resource is available in its most updated form here.