Lessons from TED: Your Company’s Role in Disaster Response

When a freak tornado hit their hometown, sisters Caitria and Morgan O’Neill – just 20 and 24 at the time – stepped up and organized. And it was NOT easy.

In this TED Talk, Caitria and Morgan describe the difficulties they faced while helping their community recover from a harrowing disaster. What they describe echoes the challenges faced by every person and organization who works to help on a local level.

Does your company have a concrete plan for helping after a disaster?

Caitria and Morgan’s talk suggests some concrete ways local businesses can help their communities recover:

  • Tools - Caitria and Morgan emphasize the dramatic need for tools to help coordinate the many little and big things involved with disaster relief efforts. Can your company provide product donations of useful technology tools (software or hardware) that will come in handy to your community’s organizers as they feverishly coordinate things in the wake of a disaster?
  • Timing - As Caitria and Morgan state, the majority of volunteer and donation interest comes within 7 days of a disaster. After that, support dramatically drops off. Perhaps your company can make a commitment to provide help to your community later in the recovery process, to fill those gaps.
  • Data - Keeping track of and analyzing relevant data is critical to recovery success, say Caitria and Morgan. This skill is often beyond the scope of the people coordinating a community’s disaster recovery efforts – even if they have the time. Your company can provide pro bono help, giving your employees paid time off to volunteer their time and professional skills to the cause.

For more information about how your company can prepare for disaster response, check out these articles:

2013 VolunteerMatch Client Summit Insights: Preparing Your Community for an Emergency

 Announcing Helpbridge: Microsoft’s New Disaster Response App Integrates with the Largest Volunteer Engagement Network

Does your company have a disaster response plan for your community? How will you involve your employees in that effort? Share your thoughts below!

After Boston: How to Donate, Volunteer and Be Prepared

A short list of ways you and your employees can help in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon BombingsSince Monday many, many people have asked us how they can help the victims of the bombings at the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013. So we’ve put together a short list of ways you and your employees can respond to the awful events in Boston with support, action and goodwill:

Microsoft’s HelpBridge

Microsoft's Helpbridge app helps you give and get help during and after a disaster like the Boston Marathon BombingsThis new mobile app, recently released by Microsoft in partnership with Aidmatrix, GuideStar, Mobile Giving Foundation, Network for Good and VolunteerMatch, helps people get help and give help during and after disasters.

HelpBridge will keep you connected with loved ones and show you how to give time and money to support relief and response efforts. The app is available for iOS, Android and Microsoft users.

VolunteerMatch Disaster Map

Use the VolunteerMatch Disaster Map to find volunteer opportunities for disaster relief and preparedness in Boston or in your own community.As part of our mission to help connect good people and good causes, VolunteerMatch maintains a map of disaster-related volunteer opportunities, so it’s easier for you to help your community when disaster strikes or respond today to current relief opportunities.

Support Local Nonprofits

What are the organizations on the ground helping the victims in Boston? You can use VolunteerMatch to find nonprofits in the area to support. Or, search for disaster relief and response organizations in your own community to help them prepare for a future crisis.

Get Trained in Disaster Preparedness

Join a Red Cross Disaster Action Team to help your own community prepare for tragedies like the Boston Marathon bombings.

The American Red Cross of Central South Carolina is recruiting volunteers for its Disaster Action Team.

The life-saving bravery of the first responders in the aftermath of the Boston attacks has been an inspiration for us all. You can join a first response team by getting trained as part of a disaster response program.

Your local Red Cross’ Disaster Action Teams are a great option, or you can contact your community’s police and fire departments to learn more.



Emotionally, we all have different ways of responding to the horror of events like the Boston bombings. Some of us turn to family and friends, some of us retreat inwards, others get angry, and others search for distractions from the pain.

However, there’s one urge we all have when a catastrophe strikes: We all want to help. Hopefully this list will help you and your employees to do that.

Choose one or more that resonate with you – no matter where you live or what your personal situation is, if you want to help there’s a way. After all, that’s what volunteering is all about.

(photo: smi23le/Flickr)

How Companies and their Employees Can Help with Hurricane Sandy

hurricane sandy volunteeringOn Thursday and Friday governors and mayors were warning local residents in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic to get ready for Hurricane Sandy. On Saturday, those calls to action became louder: “This is a very serious storm. People will get hurt.”

By Sunday their message had changed again: “You need to hurry. Soon it will be too late.”

Today, with portions of many communities under siege from a dangerous super-storm, concerned folks from across the nation want to go volunteer and help out. Unfortunately it’s too late for those who want to respond now.

With the crisis at its peak, in most cases disaster response organizations like the American Red Cross are deploying the volunteers that they’ve been training for just this moment. Despite all your best intentions, you’d be worse than useless on the ground in Atlantic City or New York. You’d be in the way, making it harder for trained responders to do their job.

So what can you do if you want to help? There are two things:

Want to help spread the word to friends and family? Click here to tweet out this article.

1. Donate to an organization like the American Red Cross that is working on the ground to save lives and provide food, clothes, and shelter to those who’ve been affected. Click here to support the American Red Cross.

2. Get training where you live so that if disaster strikes locally you can help. A good place to start is our Disaster Response & Preparedness Map, which tracks such opportunities in real time. Click here to volunteer to get disaster preparedness training. 

What Can Companies Do?

If you’re located in an area that’s being hit by Hurricane Sandy, chances are your office is closed. If you’re out of the disaster zone, you’re still probably riveted to news streams recounting the impact of the storm on friends, family and fellow coworkers in other cities.

As an employer, there are a number of different things you can do to help your employees get involved in disaster response, and to integrate disaster relief and response into the fabric of your company’s CSR program.

Disaster relief and response should encompass more than a donation-matching program – true employee engagement means leveraging the skills and passions of your employees to provide help when it’s needed. Here are some tips from CSR expert Susan McPherson:

Going Beyond Donations and Matching – Engaging Employees in Disaster Relief

Social media has become a key tool for communicating and organizing during disasters  – and for enabling your company and its employees to help out.

The Importance of Social Media Before & After Disasters

Finally, the most effective disaster response is executed in partnership with nonprofit organizations on the ground – and this type of partnership must be built and cultivated before a disaster is ever predicted.

A Best Practice Webinar Recap: Making Disaster Relief Count with Effective Partnerships

Effective disaster relief begins with smart disaster preparedness. Use your money to help out now. Use your time to get the skills you need to help out in the future

What do you think? What are some other ways responsible businesses and your employees can help with responses to Hurricane Sandy and other disasters?

Going Beyond Donations and Matching – Engaging Employees in Disaster Relief

Guest post by Susan McPherson

Susan McPherson

Susan's tips for engaging employees in disaster relief

In recent years, the horrifying effects of natural disasters have hit much closer to home, not because they are geographically closer but because ubiquitous social media tools like Twitter and Facebook deliver their impact to all corners of the earth. Hurricane Katrina, the earthquakes in Haiti and Japan, the Joplin tornado, and most recently the growing calamity of famine in the Horn of Africa have entered our living rooms through our mobile phones, computers and television sets.

A company, regardless of its size, has a tremendous opportunity to make a difference by offering support to those affected. It can provide in-kind aide, direct financial assistance, employee volunteers (skills-based or general volunteering) or any combination of the three.

Your employees, no doubt, will be familiar with the most recent disaster(s) and may inquire about how best to help. Given that, how do you maximize your communications to encourage and mobilize them to step up to the task?

The Importance of Social Media Before & After Disasters

Infographic from American Red Cross

When the east coast felt its most powerful earthquake in nearly 70 years earlier this month, many heard about it first on Twitter, then experienced the physical effects. When the coast was impacted again by Tropical Storm Irene, many of us turned to our Facebook feeds and Twitter streams to stay informed of its impact.

During a time of crisis, individuals look to social media as a means to communicate with one another – sending photos of damage, checking the safety of friends and family or passing along news and updates about the disaster’s effects. But people also look to social media channels for information from government agencies and companies.

International Teleconference on Relief and Recovery: What Grantmakers Need to Know about Japan

Our friends at GlobalGiving recently shared with us this announcement for an international teleconference on grant writing in Japan. We thought this would be a useful piece of information for the Foundation Executives and Employee Volunteer Program Managers that read our blog, as it provides insight into the direction of corporate disaster relief funds and how they are being distributed. Often in corporate social responsibility programs, the mission and direction behind employee volunteerism is aligned with the donation of corporate funds, in more ways than one.

Not only do many companies now have global volunteer programs that integrate employee service with the nonprofit benecificiaries of grants, but employee volunteers are able to donate company-awarded dollars directly to the organizations that they serve. Aligning employee volunteerism and financial donations under a unified mission will strengthen overall efforts. Join the teleconference to learn more about the landscape of relief and recovery in Japan.

Southern California Grantmakers have opened registration for tomorrow’s Japan teleconference to non-members – details are below.



Relief and Recovery: What Grantmakers Need to Know about Japan
Tuesday, June 14, 2011, 10:00-11:30 a.m. PST

The program will feature new information on Japan’s recovery efforts and illuminate the nature of Japan’s nascent civil society. Irene Hirano, President of the US-Japan Council, and Mari Kuraishi, President of GlobalGiving Foundation will be our expert speakers. This program is a collaborative effort of Southern California Grantmakers, Grantmakers of Oregon and Southwest Washington, Northern California Grantmakers, Philanthropy Northwest and San Diego Grantmakers—our fellow “ring of fire” colleagues.