The Disaster Life Cycle
Crisis and disaster response happens in several stages. By distributing funds and support throughout the “disaster life cycle,” your clients may be able to achieve greater impact with their resources while aligning their response with their values and giving priorities.

The Center for Disaster Philanthropy says there are four stages in the disaster life cycle:

• Response and relief. Immediately following an emergency, the focus of responders is often on saving lives, preventing further damage and providing basic human services. This stage typically draws the most attention from the media and the most funding.

• Reconstruction and recovery. This work typically begins after the event no longer dominates the news cycle, and yet it’s often more expensive than relief. This is the stage that comes after the damage has been assessed, and it involves longer-term efforts to restore a community or country to its pre-disaster state. This period is often overlooked and underfunded by public charities, private philanthropists and insurance companies.

• Preparedness. This is one of the phases for anticipating disasters. The preparation phase involves creating detailed plans that will help people and areas respond effectively to crises. The activities may include planning exercises; the training and education of volunteers; the identification of evacuation routes and partners; and the stocking of food, water and other basic necessities.

• Mitigation. This phase requires thinking about ways to proactively curb the risks of future disasters and limit the destruction of things like floods, earthquakes or war. It requires hazard risk analysis and the investment of time and resources—for instance, it may involve strengthening existing infrastructure such as roads or seawalls, adding insurance or relocating vulnerable populations.

Devising a Crisis Response
In determining how best to respond to a disaster or crisis, advise your clients to do the following:

• Understand their own motivations. What about the crisis speaks to them? Is there a stage in the disaster life cycle that would benefit greatly from their personal network or professional strengths? There are numerous ways to connect a client’s philanthropic mission to the needs that arise in emergency situations.

• Do research. This includes staying abreast of current affairs as well as looking to past disasters and similar situations for guidance and lessons that can help clients construct a high-impact response.

• Be aware of scams. Many new nonprofits are formed in response to disasters. While some are legitimate, others aren’t, unfortunately. Clients should evaluate new organizations carefully before making a commitment.

• Consider social equity. Disasters and crises can magnify social inequities. There may be marginalized, vulnerable or under-resourced populations feeling the crisis more acutely, and they may have difficulty accessing essential services.

• Partner with other funders. Your clients who want to give should exchange insights and best practices with other philanthropists. In the process they may find collaborators with similar or complementary goals who will help them develop a more innovative or comprehensive response.

During this critical time for Ukraine, and during other crises as well, encourage your charitable clients to address both immediate and long-term need when they provide support.

Gillian Howell is Head of Client Advisory Solutions for Foundation Source, which provides comprehensive support services for private foundations. The firm works in partnership with financial and legal advisors as well as directly with individuals and families.

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