Preparing To Help Wildfire Victims In Advance: Skills-based Volunteer Programs Are Helpful To Preventing Tragedy

With wildfires raging again in Northern California, you may wish to speak with Danielle Holly, CEO of Common Impact, about how companies can help prepare for such disasters in advance — so plans can be implemented when disasters arise without warning.
Common Impact, which matches corporations with non-profits for skills-based volunteering, recently released Insights & Impact 2019: Disaster Response – From Relief to Resiliency – detailing how the corporate sector can proactively respond to increasing instances of natural and man-made disasters in the U.S. by providing pro bono support.
According to Holly, companies should either pause or wait before trying to get in involved to ensure the role they play is truly informed and helpful. The most powerful role companies can play is in preparation, mitigation and resiliency.
Specific to tragedies like wildfires, Holly suggests that companies can do the following:
  • Reach out to the local government and first responders to understand what immediate relief resources may be needed in advance of an incident. The worst thing a company can do in disaster situations is provide the resources it has without understanding the resources needed.
  • The wildfires are hitting particularly affluent neighborhoods, but the environmental damage from the fires and smoke will likely, ultimately, have a much wider reach into LMI communities. Lower income communities are those most devastated by this type of disaster, so look beyond the epicenter of the fires when considering medium- and long-term recovery support.
  • Consider your business’s role in environmental sustainability. The increasing rate of these wildfires is a reminder of the impact of climate change. One of the most powerful actions a company can take is to build sustainability and environmental protections into its core operations, including eliminating plastics, reducing waste and pollution, and encouraging sustainability in its supply chain.
“The key is that skills-based volunteering provides victims with relief and assistance by making the necessary preparations to help when the time is needed,” said Holly.
“Private sector companies are also affected [by disaster]. The NGO community has a lot to learn from all of the expertise, learning and work that private sector companies have already done around the whole continuum of disaster response.”
– Erica Tavares, Sr. Director of Institutional Advancement, International Medical Corps
“Our programs create an infrastructure to be implemented when the time comes, when there isn’t time for long-range planning. We prepare now to have procedures in place that often provide more assistance than action taking place in reaction to an incident,” said Holly. “It really can be a life-saving endeavor.”
Based on extensive interviews and research from leaders in disaster response throughout the U.S., the Common Impact report highlights the critical role skills-based volunteerism can play in helping communities faced with increasingly common natural and man-made catastrophe, and presents a number of practical tools and guidance for corporate citizens to best support nonprofit partners and their communities in resiliency and recovery efforts.
The report shares a new approach to disaster response, one rooted in proactive engagement, and provides corporate philanthropy partners with a suite of tools to help engage in disasterresiliency work in their communities.
The tools include the following:
1)    A Measurement Framework for companies to quantify how a focus on community resiliency will produce social and business benefit for nonprofit partners, overall community health, consumers, employees, and shareholders.
2)    A Pro Bono Project Portfolio for initiatives that build the resiliency of community partners by leveraging common corporate skills and expertise.
3)    A Resiliency Assessment to identify gaps in an organization’s ability to respond to disaster, and provides insight into beneficial pro bono projects.
Included in the report is a case study on how International Medical Corps (IMC), an organization that provides vital healthcare services to communities affected by war, natural disaster and disease, uses pro bono support to increase the reach and quality of its relief services.
About Common Impact 
Common Impact is a national nonprofit that works to build a society in which individuals and businesses invest their unique talents towards a shared purpose: strengthening the local communities in which we live and work. Founded in 2000, Common Impact has partnered with Fortune 500 companies and hundreds of the country’s leading nonprofit organizations to create this transformational change through skills-based volunteering. Learn more about Common Impact’s servicesimpact and clients.
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