After a natural disaster strikes, there is only a tiny window of opportunity to rally effective recovery efforts before the world turns their attention elsewhere. While donations to major nonprofit organizations are always helpful and needed, companies have the opportunity to maximize and allocate their resources, products/services and staff to lead in a big way. Companies respond best to natural disasters when they approach them as a business challenge: by analyzing the situation, figuring out where the greatest need is, and responding in a way that reflects the “market” for aid. So where can your company best serve?
Donate Products/Services: Evaluate the types of products and services the company can offer and decide what situations you can help with. For example, Nipro Diagnostics, a local company that manufactures diabetes glucose monitoring systems and supplies, has given hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of products to both American and International Relief Organizations in the last two years. They have formed partnerships with reputable nonprofits that are able to quickly disperse well-needed diabetes supplies to those affected by disaster.
Use Your Business Model: If your company does not have a direct product or service it can donate, the company can also look to how it does business as a way helping. UPS, for example, extends their logistics expertise and transportation assets to get products to affected areas. They do not deliver just any product but work with their disaster relief partners to identify the right items needed and deliver those to the right place at the right time.
Volunteer your Employees: Volunteers constitute for 94% of the total workforce to carry out humanitarian work and your company may have a large employee base that it can tap into. It is important to note that organizations that need volunteers are looking for trained volunteers. The Red Cross offers specific volunteer trainings when it comes to disaster relief preparedness and assistance. If you do not have a local Red Cross in your area, look to other organizations that offer disaster relief trainings like UNICEF, CARE and/or the Salvation Army.
Work with Business Partners: Discuss with your partners opportunities where collaboration can occur when disaster strikes. When the 2010 earthquake struck Chile, Microsoft Chile, with the support of its partners Entel, Olidata and Fundación Vida Rural, initiated a project to provide infrastructure to reconnect the affected areas called “Conect@ Chile.” In collaboration with the Chilean government mobile information centers were delivered to the affected regions.
Reach Out to Consumers: Cash is still king when it comes to disaster relief efforts and a quick way to raise money is to activate your customer base. Whether through an email campaign or point of purchase, asking for a donation is a simple way to help meet the needs of those affected by a disaster. More importantly, your customer views you as a caring and compassionate company, which often times equate to brand loyalty. Be sure when it is time to donate the money, you have vetted an organization properly so it’s the best allocation of funds.
Corporate engagement during disasters has become a critical component in both domestic and international relief efforts. Companies can be strategic on how they can best meet the demands and play an important role during times of need. So plan appropriately and lead by example.