The World Is Changing. Your Company’s Disaster Relief Strategy Should, Too.

Puerto Rico. Mexico. Florida. Texas. It’s easy to get overwhelmed. How can your company effectively help? GlobalGiving’s Senior Director of Strategic Partnerships Ingrid Embree shares three recommendations.


Hurricanes Maria, Irma, and Harvey have swept through. The winds have died down, and the rain has ended. Soon, the TV news trucks will go, too, and all that will be left is people trying to put their lives together.

Kevin Perkins, a Harvey survivor taking shelter at a Houston convention center, lost everything.

“It’s hell,” he told the Associated Press.

The flood took everything from Raeann Barber, too.

“I have what I have on, a T-shirt and a pair of shorts,” Barber said.

Irma and Harvey survivors have the nation’s attention right now. But to meet their needs—now and in the future—we need a bold, new approach to disaster philanthropy.

Because the truth is climate-related natural disasters are increasing in frequency and severity. Around the world, disasters related to changing temperatures, precipitation, sea levels, and other factors increased 41 percent in 2015 compared with the previous decade’s annual average.

The private sector is uniquely positioned to help reimagine the future of disaster philanthropy. It has the agility, expertise, and resources to bring new solutions to scale.

New research from GlobalGiving and The Conference Board, “The Future of Disaster Philanthropy,” outlines key challenges and opportunities for the private sector in the face of climate change. Here are three takeaways from the research that can help your company get the community back on its feet after Maria, Harvey, and Irma and help prevent future large-scale suffering:

    1. Invest in risk reduction.

    Did you know that every $1 you spend in disaster risk management could generate $60 in risk reduction benefits? This finding from the United Nations should be hard to ignore.

    Proactive strategies such as disaster-resilient infrastructure, early warning systems, and risk mapping could save lives and livelihoods. Yet, across sectors, there is relatively little attention paid to these critical activities, which leaves the most vulnerable communities—including women and low-income families—without recourse when disaster inevitably strikes.

    Disaster relief accounted for just 2 percent of corporate giving in 2016. And when companies do invest in disaster relief, they’re focusing almost exclusively on immediate recovery. Imagine how much safer we’d all be if we adequately invested in risk reduction.

    2. Foster locally driven solutions

    Investing in local capacity is now widely considered one of the best ways to bolster a community’s resilience against future disasters. Yet, worldwide, a mere 1.6 percent of international aid funding is traditionally channeled to local nonprofits. Your company has the power to change that ratio, and it should.

    3. Include more points of view, including employees’, in disaster decision-making.

    About 65 percent of all employee donations to GlobalGiving projects from global pharmaceutical company Lilly are designated for disaster recovery projects, a figure that stands in stark contrast to average corporate disaster giving (which makes up just 2 percent of the sector’s overall giving).

    Lilly and other cutting-edge companies are relying more and more on the wisdom of the crowd—in this case employees with extensive knowledge about the locations where they live and work—to make decisions about what locally driven disaster-related projects to support. The strategy inoculates companies against risk, of course. But it also creates more resilient communities and saves lives. And that’s what matters most.

Learn more about these recommendations and other challenges and opportunities facing the private sector in “The Future of Disaster Philanthropy.”

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Learn more about GlobalGiving’s disaster response services for companies and foundations.

Featured Photo: Soldiers with the Texas Army National Guard support relief efforts to residents of Cyprus Creek as they fight back from the effects of Hurricane Harvey. Photo by by US Army National Guard / Capt. Martha Nigrelle.

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