Here in Colorado, we usually like it when a monsoon flow reaches our beautiful state. For us, it means moisture—in the summer to water our lawns and green our gardens, and in the winter, to powder the mountains with fresh snow. (Glorious snow—the very reason most of us live in Colorado!)
The Colorado flooding in mid-September was different. We may have expected heavy rains, but not the level of devastation, destruction and loss of life that came with it. The floods garnered tremendous media coverage, and with good cause. More than 250 bridges and roads were washed out, entire communities were cut off by the walls of water raging through their streets, and it was days before rescue workers accounted for missing friends, family members, coworkers and pets.
Many uninsured Coloradans lost their homes and all their belongings; others lost their lives. Although my neighborhood remained out of the flood zone, I had friends who weren’t so lucky. I spent a couple days helping remove standing water from basements and trying to save treasured family heirlooms.
After a Disaster, Look to the Long Term
Unfortunately, major disasters are occurring more frequently around the world, and with seemingly greater destruction. The Colorado Flood—although significant—is but one example. After the initial devastation of the event comes a more important phase: long-term rebuilding. Colorado, for example, is now faced with a massive $2 billion dollar recovery and rebuilding effort.
When disasters like this hit, many of us want to jump in and help. That call to help is part of being human. It’s what inspires us to give immediately to wonderful organizations like the Red Cross. This is good.
By contributing to long-term recovery, either in Colorado or after any disaster, you can help communities and/or families rebuild their lives. It helps spur economic development, and provides survivors of natural disasters a “hand up” versus a “hand out.”However, as I watch my neighbors in nearby counties now pick themselves up and face what is before them, I am reminded that the critical time for communities is after the disaster is over. Once the camera crews have left and the newscasts move on, there is still so much to be done.
8 Principles of Good Disaster Grantmaking
What’s the most effective way to give after a disaster? The Center of Disaster Philanthropy, a resource that helps donors make thoughtful disaster-related giving decisions, lists these eight principles of good disaster giving:
- Do no harm. The wrong type of assistance can overwhelm transportation, storage, and delivery capabilities, preventing critical aid from arriving. Hint: CONTACT the organization, ask what they need, and DELIVER what they’ve asked for—not what you think they need.
- Stop, look, and listen before taking action. Information is key to making effective decisions, and each disaster will have unique characteristics. Hint: ASK questions
- Don’t act in isolation. Duplicating efforts isn’t helpful—especially in times of disaster. Hint: Coordinate with other funders or organizations to find out what the priority needs are.
- Think beyond the immediate crisis to the long term. Support is also needed for disaster prevention, preparedness and post-disaster redevelopment.
- Bear in mind the expertise of local organizations. They can provide big insight into needs.
- Find out how prospective grantees operate. Organizations may take different approaches to solving problems. Hint: Look at their track record and history of impact.
- Be accountable to those you are trying to help. If making a grant, go beyond looking at how your money was spent to what the social impact was.
- Communicate your work widely and use it as an educational tool. Tell other funders that you give to disaster recovery efforts. Hint: Share lessons learned, including what you would do differently next time.
How You Can Help Colorado
Collectively, we can help communities rebuild if we are thoughtful about the way we give support. If you are interested in investing in Colorado’s long-term recovery, here are some organizations that I recommend:
- Center of Disaster Philanthropy – philanthropists investing in the long-term recovery of communities devastated by natural disasters
- Rotary International – international service organization with ‘boots on the ground’ business professionals in almost every community throughout the USA
- Help Colorado NOW – a list of agencies that will be involved with the long-term recovery of communities in Colorado
- National Search & Rescue Teams or Mountain Rescue – often are the ones that save us when we haven’t evacuated and are always in need of supplies and equipment. Investing here is an investment in your own community.
Have you given in the past to disasters, either personally or through your foundation? What questions or concerns did it raise for you? Drop me a comment and let me know.