When disasters hit, people want to help. Corporations have found much success by offering their employees ways to donate to those in need in the wake of a disaster. Indeed, such efforts engage employees, are good PR, and can protect business interests abroad. But making a difference after a major catastrophe can often seem daunting. Countering a disaster requires a coordinated and immediate response to deploy the most aid to the most victims. How can one company make a true difference?
One option is for corporations to adopt a fund that supports multiple charities, already on the ground, mobilized to respond quickly to the disaster. This practice offers corporations an immediate philanthropic option to capitalize on the initial giving sentiment after a disaster strikes, while keeping their legwork at a minimum since the collecting, distributing and reporting of funds is done by a trusted third-party organizer.
An example of this practice is Global Impact’s Typhoon Haiyan Relief Fund Global Impact. When Typhoon Haiyan swept through the Philippines in November 2013, it affected more than 13 million people and left an estimated 3.4 million displaced. Global Impact set up the Typhoon Haiyan Relief Fund within 24 hours of the storm making landfall, allowing donors to respond immediately. In addition to:
- Offering the fund online
- Global Impact set up a text-to-give campaign
- Created customized landing pages for select workplaces
- Enable donation match programs.
The fund earned more than $200,000 in pledges from a combination of individuals, four corporate matching programs and other sources. Donations were distributed to seven of the most respected U.S. charities who were providing on-the-ground services to storm victims, including the U.S. Fund for UNICEF and CARE and Save the Children.
For months, Global Impact charity partners worked tirelessly in the aftermath of the superstorm. Initial efforts focused on medical emergencies, providing shelter and basic necessities, and clearing debris from roads so more supplies could get to those in need. Longer term efforts focused on rebuilding infrastructure, re-opening businesses, sending children back to school, and getting people back in their homes.
Roughly a year after Haiyan, Typhoon Hagupit made landfall in the Philippines on December 6, 2014. The government learned from Haiyan and began evacuation efforts much earlier when they discovered Hagupit was on its way, saving many lives.
Though the storm did not wreak the same level of havoc as Haiyan, Hagupit’s impact may not be completely felt for some time. Hagupit, like Haiyan before it, washed out many seedlings and destroyed farmland, which will gravely affect crop harvests next year. Furthermore, both storms seriously damaged marine ecosystems in the area, decimating the fish population. Many Filipinos earn their living through farming and fishing. But with their crops destroyed and few fish left to catch, there is no money to be made and food will be scarce. Though these problems do not get media attention like destruction does, they are very serious issues that need attention.
Long after disasters fade from the headlines, needs are still great. Disaster relief efforts cannot ignore long term needs, which can often be just as crippling as the initial devastation caused by a disaster. This is precisely why Global Impact ensures that its disaster program also includes a focus on longer term efforts, as seen with Typhoon Haiyan.
Corporations are key to disaster relief efforts, both in the initial wave of enthusiasm to give after a disaster strikes and in their commitment to long-term relief and resiliency efforts after media coverage has diminished. Corporations’ are able to tap into large pools of people and increase donations by matching gifts, which can translate into lives saved, meals provided, schools reopened, houses rebuilt and livelihoods renewed. Countering a disaster may seem overwhelming, but every bit of aid helps. When corporations take the initiative to respond initially and invest in long-term relief and resiliency, each donation adds up to a big difference.