Launched in 2021, our Planning For Resilience: Disaster Response Toolkit was developed to support companies in adapting and growing their disaster response strategies. Our members shared advice, resources and strategies used to curate a disaster response plan checklist. Below you’ll find the full list of recommendations and best practices.
Determine the goals for your disaster response efforts and how your plan will align with overall business and social impact strategies.
AT&T has both business and social impact goals for its Humanitarian and Disaster Response program, including “Build a strong AT&T community by uniting employees across the globe to help impacted employees and their communities recover from unexpected disasters & hardships”.
The goals of Western Union Foundation’s disaster relief grantmaking are to focus on top/preferred geographies, focus on fewer, larger grants with six-figure commitments reserved for top tier geographies, and invest in holistic efforts year-round including preparedness and relief and recovery support so that there is both a proactive and reactive approach.
Identify the key internal and external stakeholders.
Internal and external stakeholders view disaster response and relief as highly important to AT&T’s operations as it directly relates to two focus areas, climate change and network quality and reliability. AT&T’s key internal stakeholders include employees, departments that help support their response (supply chain, IT, accounting) and business units in impacted areas. Key external stakeholders include customers, community partners, government agencies and first responders.
Clients, communities where they work, its online giving platform provider and nonprofit partners are key external stakeholders for Charles Schwab. Internal stakeholders are employees, colleagues with Schwab Charitable (who advise Donor Advised Fund-holders) and the Business Continuity team. They collaborate with these stakeholders to craft a comprehensive response.
Delta Dental of Colorado and Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation’s external COVID-19 response specifically addressed the needs of three key stakeholder groups: individual and group members, Colorado dental providers and frontline community organizations addressing critical needs and health provision for those people most significantly stressed by the effects of COVID-19.
Know what resources you have available to respond.
In addition to philanthropic responses to support COVID-19 response, AT&T provided significant support to customers, first responders and healthcare workers through its business operations. Efforts included waiving wireless voice and data overage fees for all customers, offering free telehealth services for 60 days and offering three free months of broadband service to all verified and state-licensed nurses and physicians in the U.S. among many other initiatives.
DaVita collaborated with a competitor and other dialysis organizations to serve patients during COVID-19. The aim of this initiative was to keep dialysis patients out of the hospital whenever possible, which frees up limited hospital resources. Through collaboration, the companies ensured there are enough nurses, social workers, technicians and space to treat all dialysis patients, including those who might be infected with COVID-19, without exposing other patients.
Delta Dental of Colorado and its Foundation’s COVID-19 response supported oral healthcare providers, a key stakeholder, by partnering with the Colorado Enterprise Fund to provide them with access to $7.5 million in low-interest loans and allocated $3 million toward personal protective equipment reimbursements for its network providers.
Lumen (formerly CenturyLink) committed to the Keep Americans Connected Pledge to not terminate service and waive late fees when customers can’t pay their bills during the COVID-19 pandemic. The company also suspended data usage limits and provided connectivity to the U.S. Naval Hospital Ship Mercy.
Prosono, a Denver-based business strategy and social impact firm believes the only way to solve big societal challenges is by leveraging underutilized business resources and assets and then unleashing them toward social change. They found it effective for businesses to complete an Asset Mapping exercise in coordination with disaster planning. They define Asset Mapping as “a process to take inventory of the full spectrum of an organization’s products, services, resources and people that could be used towards social good.” While financial contributions are paramount, when disaster strikes, nonprofits, social enterprises and community organizations tackling the advancement of social impact cause areas find non-financial resources are often in equal or higher demand.
Engage and support your employees.
Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck’s COVID-19 response engaged employees in a firm-wide virtual food drive and delivering donated restaurant meals to fire stations and hospitals. They created a rapid response team of pro bono attorneys to help small businesses and nonprofits navigate CARES act applications and opportunities. And, the firm supported employees and their families mental and physical health with online exercise, meditation and healthy cooking classes. They also launched “Brownstein Buddies”, a program that engaged employees’ older children in leading activities for younger kids.
The IMA Financial Group’s corporate foundation, the IMA Foundation, created a permanent year-round employee matching gifts program focused solely on disaster response (in addition to the standard matching gifts program that is also offered). Employees can donate and access matching funds to support disasters of their choice, regardless of location, via an online platform. As part of its COVID-19 response, IMA launched #sprinklegoodwill, a social media campaign to encourage innovative volunteering and giving back among associates.
In response to COVID-19, U.S. Bank established a virtual volunteer network of employees to assist nonprofits. Employees offer skills-based volunteering to support financial education, online mentoring, marketing and project management, to allow nonprofits to focus on assisting people with needs related to COVID-19 impacts. They offered 2:1 matching on employee gifts to relief efforts. To support employees, they launched a Premium Pay Program providing critical front-line employees with a temporary 20% hourly wage increase and provided additional paid time off for employees affected. One U.S. Banker took advantage of the company’s Volunteer Time Off program and flexibility with her work schedule to sew and donate more than 7,500 masks that have made their way around the globe.
For COVID-19, Xcel Energy launched its first issue-focused employee matching gifts campaign. Utilizing its online giving platform, Xcel created a special campaign to match employee gifts to relief efforts 2:1. The online platform allowed them to launch it quickly with specific criteria and to set an overall donation cap of $300,000.
Articulate the criteria and parameters for when and how you will respond.
Charles Schwab has a formal process and evaluation matrix in place to evaluate disasters in an objective manner. They gather insights from a variety of trusted resources to assess the impact on key stakeholders including employees, clients, the overall business and nonprofit partners. The matrix is an objective planning tool that allows them to evaluate and score a disaster to inform response. They evaluate the impact on stakeholders as well as the overarching scale and impact of the disaster. Then they look at what assets are available to deploy and use data to craft the best response.
Western Union Foundation created a disaster “scorecard” linked to tiers of response. Depending upon an event’s score, the Foundation responds within a financial range with dedicated tactics (such as an employee appeal) and with corresponding communications. Scorecard criteria includes disaster scope (number of fatalities, number impacted), geographic location (the Foundation identifies the top target geographies where they prioritize response annually), business impact (top market and employee considerations) and alignment with the Foundation’s mission (host refugee/migrant country consideration).
Xcel Energy provides support for disaster relief and recovery through the Xcel Energy Foundation’s “disaster response fund” that can be accessed to support response efforts throughout its eight-state territory. The primary factors in determining if and how they will respond are impact on customers, company assets and infrastructure. The severity of the impact and budget available in the fund at the time a disaster strikes influence the level of response.
Identify and establish relationships with partners before the next disaster.
Molson Coors Beverage Company launched its water donation partnership with the American Red Cross in 2017 in collaboration with Ball Corporation. Together, they have committed to providing more than 2 million cans of water to help communities affected by disasters. The water is canned by Molson Coors in Ball-produced cans, stored at Molson Coors breweries and shipped to locations identified as most in need by the American Red Cross.
QEP Resources has established strong partnerships with community partners, like the American Red Cross and local first responder agencies. They work with these public safety and emergency/disaster preparedness partners throughout the year to understand needs, align resources and response efforts. These existing relationships allow them to react quickly and make the greatest impact when a crisis or disaster occurs.
Establish protocols and processes for rapid response decision-making and funding distribution.
QEP Resources has a simple protocol and approval process for disaster response. When a disaster strikes, the Community Investments team works directly with established partners to determine the greatest needs and submits a funding recommendation to the Executive Committee for approval. The process is done via email within a 48-hour window to facilitate quick distribution of funds. If nonfinancial support is needed, local employee Leadership Councils helps identify resources and create employee engagement opportunities.
Western Union Foundation created a formal “Drill Tree” that outlines protocols and timing for disaster response. Within 24 hours of learning of a disaster, Foundation staff make a recommendation and request approval for a response effort. The approval process is streamlined for disaster grants so they can announce and launch response efforts within 48 hours of learning of the disaster’s impact.
Build and implement tools and systems you will need to support a response.
Charles Schwab has established several systems and protocols to facilitate its support of disaster response. They budget for the program annually and the foundation board allows them to carry over unspent funds to the next year. In addition, if the evaluation of a disaster’s impact (using their standard evaluation matrix) indicates a response level that is beyond what is remaining in the current budget, they may request additional funding from the board. To streamline decision-making for disaster grants, approval can be given by the foundation president, rather than requiring a full board vote.
Xcel Energy has established systems to streamline and support response efforts, including: a foundation “disaster response fund” budgeted annually and used across the company; an online platform for quickly launching and managing employee giving campaigns; and a stakeholder engagement process to get accurate information on the disaster’s impact and the greatest needs in Xcel Energy communities.
Develop communication plans and templates.
Charles Schwab has a standard communications plan in place for disaster response, which includes templates for announcements, updates and stories on impact. They have a dedicated person who activates the communications plan and utilizes both internal channels and an online giving platform to communicate with employees. Once they have vetted and selected partner organizations for response, the pre-established plan and templates allow them to launch their 2:1 matching gifts campaign quickly, giving employees a way to help right away.
The IMA Financial Group’s corporate foundation, the IMA Foundation, established a year-round employee matching gifts program focused solely on disaster response. Employees can donate and access matching funds anytime to support disasters of their choice, regardless of location, via an internal online platform. Their communications plan goal is to increased program participation. It includes regular articles for the IMA intranet and employee newsletter, in person presentations (when possible) at each office and featured stories when large disasters strike, or IMA communities are impacted.
Decide how you will measure and report on impact.
Western Union Foundation requires funded partners to submit two formal impact reports. A three-month report provides current information about how the response is progressing as well as stories and data that can be shared with donors and other stakeholders. The final report is submitted 12 months after the grant and provides more detailed results and impact data on the overall effort. Partners are given the report templates at the time of the initial application so they know what will be required if funded.