For example, an important but not necessarily urgent process such as surveying beneficiary satisfaction as part of the grant monitoring process might take second priority when the grantee can otherwise be carrying out urgent and important work such as delivering emergency medical attention to hundreds of community members. Requirements that are important but not urgent can always be addressed later in the grant cycle.
Restricting grant money for use only on specific programme related expenses is common during normal conditions, but crippling in a crisis. Disaster situations evolve at high speeds and require agile responses that can be more easily achieved through flexible funding. Flexible funding allows grants to be utilised across an organisation’s programmes including overheads. If a grant was made for new programming prior to the disaster, flexible funding policies can allow that committed funding to be diverted away from its original intention towards a more urgent disaster response.
Cash gifts are the most flexible resource that can be transferred during a crisis. In-kind gifts can create logistical challenges especially during natural disasters. They can have long lead-times to reach their destination, and in the interim, needs could have changed rendering them useless. In-kind gifts also detract from procuring goods from within a local community, doing further damage to already fragile economies.
Corporate givers regularly sponsor community organisations that, under normal conditions, receive periodic instalments over the course of a year. If these organisations are also relevant to disaster relief, corporate givers can consider front-loading their annual donations so that the grantee can respond to the disaster in the way it sees fit.
Crisis-time giving is executed at a furious pace. Without clear information about needs, availability of funds, and transfer of gifts, this well-intended rush inevitably leads to duplication or suboptimal distribution of efforts and resources. In a worst-case scenario, a critical mass of donor gifts land with a small subset of popular organisations or are disproportionately pooled around few issue areas leaving others to endure financial famine. Sharing information about where funds are flowing help peers in the donor community ensure their gifts are made where they are most needed. Even something as simple as sharing a spreadsheet amongst peer donors or collaborators is helpful to ensure financial support is evenly spread amongst grantees and areas of need.
Crises, particularly natural and humanitarian disasters, repeat themselves in some form year after year across the globe. Although they are cyclical, less than 2% of corporate philanthropic spending is dedicated to forward-looking activities including disaster preparedness, risk mitigation, and resilience measures. While governments are obligated to and busy with first response activities, preparation, resilience and mitigation measures are natural areas for philanthropy to provide support to meet the full lifecycle of a disaster response.
Supporting forward looking activities also includes taking time to reflect on internal processes. Dedicating time and effort immediately following a grant cycle to conduct an after-action review is a wonderful way to harness lessons and improve crisis-time grant making.