The recent series of storms that rocked Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and the southern United States has now passed, and the earthquakes in Mexico appear to have subsided. As residents slowly move back home, we at Benevity have been touched by the response of our clients and their employees. Together, they have raised almost $20 million (and counting) in response to the hurricanes through hundreds of dedicated fundraising campaigns. And they’re coming together again to support people affected by the wildfires that are currently devastating California.
In the past months, many of our clients stepped up their disaster relief efforts to mobilize rapid response from their consumers, vendors, partners, the personal networks of their people and the public at large. They did this by promoting disaster relief campaigns, along with matching in some cases, on their branded Community Impact Portal (a customizable microsite that allows external stakeholders to participate in the company’s giving initiatives). These companies raised half a million dollars through the portals in the first two days alone, bringing much-needed funds to communities in distress.
As usual, more dollars and hands are required, but where and, perhaps more importantly, when?
Once disasters strike, they follow a predictable pattern: a period of immediate relief, followed by an extended period of recovery and reconstruction. Immediate relief efforts are generally addressed by federal governments and larger nonprofit organizations, such as the Red Cross/Red Crescent, Doctors Without Borders, the International Rescue Committee, UNICEF and so on. Federal, state and local agencies work with countless nonprofits to evacuate, house and feed residents in affected areas.
This is also when events are featured prominently in the news and social media, and when people are moved to offer immediate support. We are hardwired to support people in need. Witnessing the catastrophes on television or our phones, we desperately want to offer help.
For example, in 2005, the year Hurricane Katrina struck, over $7.37 billion were donated to disaster relief groups, and nearly $15 billion were raised for the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Every dollar counted, but as the people of New Orleans and Port-au-Prince returned to rebuild, it became apparent that the effects of the disasters had only just begun.
Once the immediate threat of a natural disaster passes and relief efforts conclude, a second, more drawn out, phase begins: a rebuild that can often only be done by those on the ground who understand the local context. Residents of Texas, South Florida and other affected areas may be returning home to find out that they no longer have habitable housing or a job. Business owners may not have employees or supplies. Schools may be unusable and transportation disrupted. Any of these scenarios can be devastating.
As a natural disaster dies down, the news cameras move on and the focus of donors often shifts. For instance, of funds donated to Hurricane Harvey relief through Spark (Benevity’s workplace giving, matching and volunteering software), 56% were donated in the first five days, 70% within the first 10 days and 97% within the first 20 days. The long tail of smaller contributions continues from there. This is good news for the immediate relief efforts, but how do we also provide for the long and difficult rebuild?
With natural disasters seeming to become more frequent, companies are starting to look at their Goodness programs to see how they can create more impact when disaster strikes, while also supporting the long process of rebuilding. The following are a few ways companies can boost the long-term impact of employee donations that go beyond matching gifts.
We know from the experience of recent events that companies and their employees have tremendous power to help in emergency relief efforts and long-term reconstruction. While it is impossible to predict when and where disasters will occur, businesses can take steps in advance to support their users in providing a rapid response. This includes ensuring that they have access to local organizations on the ground doing the work and the right tools to easily execute campaigns when disaster strikes.
A certified B Corporation, is the global leader in corporate social responsibility and employee engagement software, including online giving, matching, volunteering and community investment. Many of the world’s most iconic brands rely on Benevity’s award-winning cloud solutions to power corporate “Goodness” programs that attract, retain and engage today’s diverse workforce by connecting people to the causes that matter to them. With software that is available in 17 languages, to an employee base of 10 million users around the world, Benevity has processed nearly 3 billion dollars in donations and 17 million hours of volunteering time this year to 200,000 charities worldwide.