Autumn 2016

Disaster Relief: how companies should maximise their response (Part 2)

This is the concluding part in our Disaster Response blogs which discusses businesses’ response to disasters. You may recall from the previous blog that we convened 20 CSR experts from various industries to discuss businesses’ role in disaster relief response

We shared research during the debate from leading academics which revealed that disaster relief appeals:

  • tend to encourage giving from individuals;
  • do not cannibalise donations to other charities; and
  • increase donations overall to charities in the short-term but eventually return to normal giving levels.

But what did the research findings mean for our roundtable participants?

The research prompted a dynamic discussion. In particular participants recognised the disruptive nature of disasters and how they impact both communities and businesses. This includes the tangible impact i.e.: through supply chain interference and emotional impact that affects employees through the loss of lives, livelihoods and morale.

The top five insights are:

  1. How important is it? – companies must consider where and how disasters can impact their business. There is a critical need to decide whether a strategic, operational, employee driven or philanthropic response is required. This includes how much time, resource, and donations you wish to give. Paramount is the need to develop a coordinated approach to disaster response, which factors in risk, communications and appropriate distribution of funds or support.
  2. Global vs local – identifying and understanding what is material to your company and your employees at a local and international level allows you to decide what and how much is expected. An effective approach is a centralised strategy with in-built flexibility that remains true to your core tenets, but can be adaptive at a moments notice when disasters occur. One way to achieve this is to empower local employees to take action. Alternatively, support a charity partner which has a strong local-level footprint in areas that are business relevant.
  3. Leverage your assets – business should consider its assets and how best to leverage them in relation to disaster response - assessing where they can make the biggest impact. This can be either a short-term immediate response or longer term engagement. For example, retailers can quickly galvanise fundraising efforts with employees and customers to support immediate relief efforts. Whereas legal firms may choose to offer more long-term support by re-establishing legal infrastructure in disaster hit areas, which often find themselves in a  state of emergency.
  4. Immediate vs. investigative vs. responsive – should your company be flexible and responsive to disaster response, placing employee engagement at the core of your strategy? Or should your company decide on a set amount of annual donations for charities that actively develop preventative measures for disasters? Both of these strategies are valid, but accompany different operational requirements. When deciding between strategies, it is also crucial to consider the impact you want to make beyond the immediacy of giving.
  5. Should employees respond by volunteering? – when considering the utilisation of employees as volunteers, it is important to understand the opportunities, limitations and potential risks. This may not be initially obvious without engaging a charity partner who will have the disaster response expertise to understand how best to deploy your staff. This can often be done remotely and include preventative, reactive and long term development requirements.

What emerged strongly from the roundtable discussion was employees’ expectations that companies contribute to disaster relief efforts, be this through fundraising, capacity building or funding preventative measures. It is also paramount to develop a tailored and impact driven strategy, which can build business resilience across your supply chains, offices and communities.

We work with over 7,000 companies and manage over £2.5 billion for donors and charities, supporting over 50,000 NGOs and social enterprises in over 100 countries. We work closely with companies across the globe to deliver flexible and tailored financial products and strategic advice to address the critical issues facing business and communities such as disaster relief.

We would love to hear your thoughts on this blog. For more information on how we can support you and your business please contact Jordina Evins or get in touch with the team.

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The research findings

The research and ensuing discussion provided 4 key insights on disaster appeals.

Find out how disaster appeals impact giving 

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