When a major disaster hits, it's hard to know what to do. The suffering of our fellow humans and animals is palpable at times like these and many of us simply want to help. It's difficult to determine what will make the most difference for those suffering, over the short or long-term. What follows are a few thoughts and ideas regarding how you and your employees can band together to make a positive impact by donating to support the relief effort for those affected by hurricane Harvey.
There's "help" (makes more work for the folks we want to assist and makes little impact) and then there's HELP (makes a clear and direct impact without adding any burden on those you intend to assist). It's incredibly important that we not only have the desire to help, but that we are careful to respond to emergencies from a thoughtful, strategic place, rather than just from an emotionally reactive space.
One of our first thoughts is often to collect and attempt to transport physical supplies to the affected. This can really get in the way of established and imperative relief efforts and often times, those supplies don't ever end up reaching their intended destination or recipients. There's just simply too much going on for this to be an effective effort by grassroots groups outside of the affected area. Click here for a great blog article speaking more to this. This is the very definition of "help."
If you're hell bent on donating supplies instead of funds, please find a group in your area collecting donations that has a clear and proven plan for making sure these supplies reach the affected. Understand and have full faith in their transport and distribution plans.
I strongly recommend considering a cash donation. Here's a few ways companies and your employees can financially support the Harvey relief effort:
Make a Corporate Donation
Your company can directly donate funds to an organization aiding in the relief effort. See below for all sorts of ideas for the "where?"
Make a Corporate Match
You can communicate out to your employees that your company will match their donations to the relief effort. For example, send a company-wide email that says, "We will match employee donations to the Harvey relief effort up to $5,000." You can ask employees to forward their donation receipt or cancelled check to you for verification. You can also focus your total company effort even further by selecting the organization you want everyone to donate to. For example, if your company is super dog-friendly, perhaps you want to focus your Harvey relief donations to the Texas SPCA.
Help Direct Your Employees' Donations
If your company doesn't want to make or fool around with a giving match, consider helping to inform your employees by sharing the blog articles referenced here and even some direct donation links to get them started. Again, in times of struggle, nearly everyone wants to help, but not everyone knows how!
Support the Deployment of Volunteers
When Hurricane Katrina hit, I was working with a wonderful organization, Citizen Schools. They offered company-sponsored paid time off to any employee who wanted to fly to the relief area and donate their time with a legitimate relief organization. It said a lot about the company and their alignment with the humanity of their employees. Pretty amazing.
If this is something your company would like to do, your human resources team needs to be prepared to get involved and to help liaise with an organization if you have a handful or more of employees interested in going. Folks "showing up" willing to help is definitely filed under the heading "help." Remote Area Medical Volunteer Corps trains and deploys volunteers in disaster relief. They are currently seeking medically-trained personnel but also need support volunteers. This would be a great organization to refer your employees to or with which to coordinate.
Suggested Support Vehicles
If you're willing instead to donate money to the Harvey relief effort, the Red Cross is usually the first place on folks' minds. The same blog article linked above makes an interesting (and in my opinion, very reasonable) case for donating directly to other organizations working at ground zero to support survivors of natural disaster Harvey. Here's a list of those organizations as reported by a Texas news station (see full source article by clicking here):
- Portlight Strategies is working to help older adults and those with disabilities. Donate here.
- The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Texas is helping displaced animals. You can donate here.
- The following food banks are accepting online donations: Houston Food Bank, Southeast Texas Food Bank in Beaumont, Central Texas Food Bank, Galveston County Food Bank, Food Bank of the Golden Crescent, Corpus Christi Food Bank and Feeding Texas,
- You can open your home to disaster victims through Airbnb.
- Make a cash donation to the Texas Diaper Bank, which is providing emergency diaper kits to displaced families.
- Donate cash for children with complex medical needs to Little Lobbyists.
- The State of Texas Agriculture Relief fund (STAR fund) is collecting private dollars to help Texas farmers and ranchers recover from Hurricane Harvey.
- Help teachers in affected school districts rebuild their classrooms.
- You can help Hurricane Harvey victims by texting HARVEY to 90999 to give $10 to the Red Cross.
- The Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, established by Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, is accepting donations for flood victims.
Follow Your Heart
You cannot help everyone or donate to every relief organization aiding in the effort, but you can focus funds in one area, to make a direct impact. If your company is dog-friendly, for example, a donation that helps animals may feel the most authentic to your organization, which, ultimately, will provide the most personal satisfaction for those contributing.
Thank you for reading this post and for your interest in supporting those affected by this national tragedy. Recognizing and responding from our shared humanity is such a gift and more needed than ever before.
This article was updated August 30, 2017 and will continue to be updated as relevant new ideas and resources emerge.
Kristy Krugh is the owner and principal of Wicked Philanthropic Strategies and Wicked Visible Marketing. Following 15 years of service to the non-profit sector, Kristy now works exclusively with mission-driven companies in the for-profit sector to optimize their philanthropic systems for maximum marketing, sales, constituent, and community returns. Clients from across the country engage Kristy from her home base in Bend, Oregon where she is supervised daily by her rescue Bulldog, Dunkin. Kristy offers no-risk, no-cost Corporate Giving Assessments to all prospective clients and can't wait to hear from you!