We have a disaster plan in our home. It was drafted by my eight-year old daughter. It’s affixed to our refrigerator and covers roles and routes we are to take to ensure a quick and safe escape from the house in case of an emergency. My role as I understand it is to collect and shepherd my daughter’s beloved pets- Bob the goldfish and Harriet the hamster to safety. The responsibly of actually getting the children out falls to my wife. I’m unsure who my daughter thinks more highly of, my wife or I.
Our family homily aside, disaster planning is serious business. Last year there was more than $306 billion in damage from the numerous disasters, the highest figure ever. And experts predict an increase in frequency and scale of natural disasters in the coming years. In other words, buckle up.
This new reality will have a direct impact on the business operations, employees, communities and the bottom line of corporate America. This in turn will require companies to adopt a new approach to disaster response in order to help mitigate social and business losses. The act of simply writing a check will not be enough to meet the needs and expectations of customers, employees and communities. Companies will need to display greater sophistication. In short, companies will need to approach disaster response with the same level of strategy, planning and partnerships as they do other pillars of a company’s CSR program.
Thankfully, several companies have already demonstrated thoughtful, and planned disaster philanthropy. UPS, Anheuser-Busch and Wal-Mart among others has consistently shown how companies can raise and deliver a tremendous amount of resources in an expedited, innovative and impactful manner. This directly translates to positive impact on lives, communities and the bottom line.
To get started companies need to address the core elements of a disaster philanthropy plan:
Define Your Purpose: Similar to CSR initiatives, when it comes to disaster response companies need to examine how they can make a unique and positive impact based on its expertise, people, products and resources. For JetBlue its providing flights to those impacted, UPS taps its logistics expertise to help communities. Verizon supports the communication of first responders. How can your company respond in a way that is truly you?
Develop Policies and Procedures: Each disaster poses an array of questions and unique considerations—who are you helping, how are you helping? how much should you donate? Companies need pre-established guiding criteria to help make these decisions in a timely and consistent manner. The devil is definitely in the details. Having giving policies and procedures ahead of time will significantly improve response effectiveness and efficiencies.
Choose Partners Wisely: Nonprofit organizations are the critical link between a company’s good intent and the actual impact. Increasingly, there is greater scrutiny of on an organization’s effectiveness and transparency in turning dollars, volunteers and products into tangible impact. Take the time to properly vet partners to ensure their role, brand, competencies and most of all impact are consistent with your vision.
Bring It All Together: Finally, your plan needs to be shared internally. The creation of a user-friendly playbook helps to gain consensus, clarity and coordination among various departments and stakeholders. Trainings and even emergency drills keep the information top of mind.
The recent spate of disasters is a wake-up call to CSR leads. Its time to be proactive and prepared. Having a disaster plan—whether it sits in on your intranet, your bookshelf or in my case, the refrigerator, is a critical responsibility moving forward.
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