You have your favorite charities and you know the areas of the community on which you wish to make an impact, but in times of crisis and emergency are you ready to pivot and provide support to those most affected by the crisis? Have you thought about whether or not you would want to pivot?

A well thought out philanthropic plan involves creating a process for giving during life, and after, to the areas that the grantor holds dear. However, there may be circumstances that even a well thought out plan doesn’t address, namely emergency or crisis situations. When thinking about your philanthropic plans, you may want to consider addressing these times and, if you want to be responsive to emergency needs, become as prepared as possible to allow for collaboration, promptness, and flexibility.

Collaboration sounds so easy on paper. It’s a way to bring those with varying skills and perspectives around the same table to tackle a common goal. Of course, this is much easier to do when not in crisis mode. The more connected you are in your community before urgency strikes the easier and more effective this will be. If you’re newer to your community, or to community work, reach out to others who are not new. Look to your local community foundation, corporate and/or family foundations based in your area, local non-profit organizations, or other private philanthropists who you may know. Ask these other groups questions to find out what work has already been done in the community to create networks and, if you’re fortunate, if your community has a crisis funding plan already in place. As I mentioned, creating true relationships with others doing community work is easier when not in crisis mode. It is incredibly helpful, even when your missions and desired impacts are different, to talk openly and regularly with others about how you’re each going about your work in support of non-profits in your community. Meet regularly with the partners that you have or are considering funding to hear about the realities of their work, their successes and challenges, and the needs that they have as they strive to fulfill their mission and vision. Helping to connect the dots, one at a time, over time is much preferred over needing to do so at a time of urgency. If you’re involved in community work in any way start now by getting to know the other people in your community who are also involved. Collaboration and connections will help all of us improve and more importantly will be our support system as we face challenges.

Promptness is also required during times of crisis. Individuals and families with urgent needs for food, shelter, or other essential supplies in response to an emergency situation cannot wait weeks and months for proposals to be written, reviewed, evaluated, and eventually decided upon. Unfortunately, we have had many recent opportunities to provide examples of these situations. With these scenarios in mind, now may be an opportune time to convene and think about what is happening in your community and how you could rewrite your processes to allow for more promptness in funding to the non-profits in your community who are on the front-lines doing important work for our community members.

Specific questions you may want to plan for are:

  • How will the decision makers convene to discuss funding of urgent needs and how should others proceed if not all are available?;
  • What is the minimum required information that must be collected in order to make a decision?;
  • Who will take the lead on setting the meetings and collecting and sharing information?;
  • Do you have collaborative partners that you want to consult with on this type of funding?; and
  • How much money could be readily available during a time of crisis? As you ponder these questions, and likely others, it should help you develop a plan to act quickly when your community members need you the most.

One additional requirement during times of crisis is flexibility. Things will not go according to plan, because you cannot possibly plan for all the “what-ifs” that might occur. What is important is to remain flexible and to have the general process and team decided upon so they can spring into action when needed. It may be necessary to hold weekly calls to keep all involved parties up to date. The typical processes and procedures that you may be used to will likely look different. You may not have the same level of detail or information as you do for traditional, responsive grant-making or giving. There is a level of trust and flexibility required at these times and allowing the non-profit partners to do their important work, during a time of increased need and stress, as opposed to writing proposals and providing proof and evidence will be crucial.

No one wants to go through a time of crisis, but we know emergency situations will continue to happen. If funders can take the time to plan for how they would like to respond to the community needs more collaboratively, more promptly and with more flexibility, the individuals and families in our communities will be better served.