Disasters can strike anytime—even during a global pandemic. Here are seven ways you can prepare your company to respond to a disaster amid the COVID-19 crisis.
2020 has been a whammy of a year—and we still have a third to go.
And we are in the middle of a global pandemic.
The world is united against a public health crisis that has tested humanitarian aid and disaster response protocol like never before. Frontline responders have worked tirelessly to care for the sick, and many local leaders have risen to the occasion to help prevent the virus’s spread.
Meanwhile, global economies are floundering as unemployment skyrockets and spending plummets. The pandemic has affected Fortune 500 companies and sole proprietors on Main Street alike.
In this moment of uncertainty when stress levels are soaring and emotions are running high, it’s difficult to imagine tackling any more challenges.
Unfortunately, hurricane and wildfire seasons are upon us. Your employees and stakeholders are looking to you to have a plan for the inevitable: responding to a major disaster event during the coronavirus pandemic.
1. Engage your global team and practice active listening.
Start with a disaster response checklist and engage your stakeholders. Actively listen to what your global employees and supply chains are telling you about conditions on the ground. Your response to a disaster will put the safety of your employees first, so if a hurricane or flash flood barrels through a local operating site, you’ll want to know how the community is addressing the pandemic before activating.
Your employees and supply chains have firsthand knowledge of local needs and can provide context to inform your response. Ask meaningful questions to learn how you can support your team; they’ll appreciate your efforts to acquire a deeper understanding of the realities they’ve been facing since the pandemic hit their region and how gaps in humanitarian aid might affect the situation.
2. Integrate your disaster response budget with your annual philanthropy plans.
For the foreseeable future, your existing corporate giving program will be intertwined with pandemic-related activities. Whether it’s your seasonal grant cycle or direct funding for COVID-19 relief, every partner you choose is reacting to the coronavirus, with many in dire need of additional support just to maintain operations so they can serve their community. With this in mind, consider combining your disaster response budget with your annual giving and offer increased levels of support for unforeseen needs caused by the virus.
3. Be flexible with financial support and embrace trust-based grantmaking.
How many times have you changed course because of the pandemic? Did you transition to a fully remote workforce? Temporarily shut down factories or stores? Did you have to reevaluate employee benefits and time off procedures or shift operations in another way? Your business needs are ever-changing as the downstream effects of the pandemic continue to present themselves. Your nonprofit partners are experiencing similar levels of disruption.
When a disaster strikes, lean into unrestricted funding that allows for maximum flexibility. Any disaster partner you choose will have the complicated responsibility of providing urgent first responder care while upholding COVID-19-related precautions.
You can help mitigate this complex situation by providing grantees with flexible funds and trusting them to use your donation where it is needed the most. This trust-based approach not only lends itself to a speedier recovery but also relieves partners of undue stress associated with typical grants administration. If your partners are able to spend more time serving their communities and less time filling out repetitive forms, your dollars will have a greater impact.
4. Be proactive in identifying nonprofit partners.
COVID-19 has already affected your business. While debilitating for many, these disruptions have also highlighted the areas of your operations that are most at risk during a crisis—whether it be a pandemic or a natural disaster.
Use this knowledge to proactively identify your disaster response partners. Having an existing network will keep you from scrambling in the wake of a disaster and allow you to use that time to focus on what’s needed: a swift, fluid response that meets the needs of the communities where your global team lives and works.
5. Get creative with your response when available funds are minimal.
The economy is in turmoil, and chances are your bottom line and your philanthropy budget have been affected. If your disaster response budget has been cut because of the pandemic, get creative with how you use the funds that are available.
- Encourage your employees and consumers to give and amplify their impact by matching donations.
- Provide community-wide discounted services or products to disaster-affected areas.
- Launch a cause marketing campaign that inspires current and would-be customers to join your response efforts.
- Help your employees connect with a local nonprofit or small business to provide pro bono services in an area they are passionate about. These organizations are already hurting from the pandemic and will be inspired by your support during a crisis.
Your customers and employees will seek leadership when the time comes to respond to a double disaster. Choose a path that leverages your company’s strengths like these four brands that embraced cause marketing in the COVID-19 era.
6. Anticipate the worst-case scenario.
What’s more daunting than a twofold blow of a natural disaster and a global pandemic? A threefold blow of a natural disaster and a global pandemic alongside a refugee crisis, a war, a civil rights clash, or a political uprising, to name a few. In light of recent world events, whatever your worst-case scenario is, it could very well come to fruition. Consider how you can apply these tactics in your response to a multifaceted crisis or to plan ahead with an investment in community disaster resilience programs amid COVID-19.
7. Invest in disaster preparedness and community-wide resilience.
It’s audacious to invest in disaster preparedness while living through a pandemic, yet there’s never been a more critical time. Preparedness saves lives, as well as billions of dollars in recovery costs annually. Unfortunately, our brains aren’t wired to take action for preventative measures, and most businesses don’t have an explicit budget or excess funds to direct toward readiness. But some do.
Online streaming services, virtual solutions providers, and disinfectant product manufacturers are among a handful of industries that are soaring since the coronavirus took hold and quarantine policies went into effect. Companies exceeding financial expectations should consider reinvesting a revenue surplus in resilience to actively prepare for the inevitable.
Companies that invest in preparedness and mitigation programs are leaders in the sector. Whether by ramping up your investment in virus-related hygiene awareness programs or directing funds for disaster-resilient infrastructure, you could give local communities an opportunity to defend themselves against the unavoidable and the best shot at surviving whatever is next.