CSR Insights: Disaster Strikes. Now What?

Deploy a quick, successful disaster relief program in three strategic steps. 

In the past three years, a required response to more than a handful of disasters occurred including: the earthquakes in China, Chile and Haiti; the floods in Tennessee and Pakistan; and now, the most recent earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan. As heartbreaking as they may be, disasters happen every year. Forecasting them only helps to provide the best, most effective response.

In three years providing our services, YourCause aggregated enough data to show that the first three days (72 hours) is the most crucial time to respond to a disaster. “Turn-key” programs that immediately respond and act upon the emotion and interest of the public at-large show the best results of giving, demonstrating that time truly is of essence.

YourCause spoke with Kristi Fontenot, AMD’s Community Affairs Specialist, to gain additional insight into how a company can expedite their disaster relief efforts.

1. Step One: Decide Whether to React

Surprisingly, only a small percentage of companies possess mitigation guidelines on when to manage a disaster relief program. If your company takes part in that small percentage, bravo! Your first step of deciding whether to react should be a breeze because structure and clarity exist.
For those that respond on a case-to-case circumstance, there may be more „gray‟ areas.

However, we recommend taking a comprehensive approach to disaster recovery that matches your company‟s core strengths and values. Some companies only respond to disasters where they have programs, partners or employees on the ground. AMD‟s community affairs team responds to relief efforts when disaster strikes an area where they operate.

We have an office in Japan and knew it was necessary to have a corporate response to the earthquake disaster, said Kristi Fontenot, AMD Community Affairs Specialist. We sent an email to employees right away.

2. Step Two: Decide Which Programs to Deploy

Decide which program is best for the disaster at-hand. Perhaps, like AMD, your company promotes a „Matching Gift‟ program in place, which only amplifies and encourages an employee‟s generosity. Matching programs foster goodwill and increase an employee‟s sense of engagement, according to the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy. Thus, the second step is to decide whether and which programs you enact.

Other disaster programs include volunteer paid time off (to help the affected area), donating products to relief and fundraising collectively to provide immediate rescue resources.

One of the most important agendas on AMD‟s community team was to utilize technology to centralize and report on various programs in a timely matter. Therefore, in response to the Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami, AMD rolled out one single online disaster relief page that enabled them to quickly launch a program that allowed for an immediate, impactful response from employees.

Success lies in collective effort, Fontenot said. We now have one disaster page where all efforts can be tracked and centralized to see the impact of the company as a whole.


3. Step Three: Communicate Your Programs

Communicating your programs, the most important step, displays the biggest surge of participation and donations (Fig.1). Without communicating (both internally and externally) a disaster relief program falls flat and unsuccessful. We, at YourCause, can‟t stress enough how vital this step is – especially 48 hours after a disaster strikes when ears are perked, eyes wide-opened and emotions peaked.

Strategize your communication. Create appropriate contacts and channels of communication with disaster partners, employees, local/global offices, business units and the general public prior to disasters happening. Then, when a natural disaster happens, use these channels of communication to link your relief efforts through all forms of media and technology, while educating your employees at the same time.

If you look closely in the chart above, a surge of donations came later, after legal mitigation and communication (Fig.1). The above shows that even though the frequency of donations were heavy on Day Two, a striking spike in the amount of donors rose heavily on the third day, likely a response to successful communication tactics. Not only does word travel fast, but technology expedites that “word.‟

The single most important lesson we’ve learned from launching disaster relief programs is that responding as quickly as possible is the most important key, but not the whole formula, said Matthew Combs, YourCause Founder. A company needs to know the right steps, strategies and guidelines so that ultimately, they can lead their employees to provide relief the most efficient way possible.


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