Get Ready to Say “No Thank You”
While some of you have been in the midst of disaster response for months now due to fires and drought, others are gearing up for hurricane season. Here’s one more thing to add to your to-do list: Get ready to say “no thank you” to all kinds of offers of support that you don’t actually need. Better yet, advise the experts, get a list ready ahead of time that states exactly what you will need in order to respond to a disaster and be very explicit in your communications to your supporters and the community at-large.
For a recent article in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Raymund Flandez interviewed a number of people from national organizations typically active in disaster response – such as the United Way and Red Cross – and learned that these agencies are getting much more serious and proactive about heading off unwanted donations in order to avoid wasting time and money after a crisis.
Indeed, I was one of several people who staffed the phone lines at the ASPCA after Hurricane Katrina. About three days into the response effort, the owner of a grooming supply business told me he wanted to send a truck of dog and cat shampoos after seeing news clips of animals swimming through filthy water. I understood his impulse, but can you imagine the volunteers at the Lamar Dixon emergency shelter having to deal with a tractor-trailer load of shampoo bottles?! This kind of situation is exactly why National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster is about to come out with a toolkit to help nonprofits conduct scenario planning about how they will respond to offers of donations and support. In the meantime, they already offer a great downloadable guide for managing spontaneous volunteers in times of disaster called “The Synergy of Structure and Good Intentions.” You can find this and other free resources in their online resource center.
And while you’re at it, why do this type of planning just for disaster response? Every day people want to help, but they don’t necessarily have the perfect ideas in mind. So why not figure out how to be very specific about what you need and want 365 days of the year, and hone your most polite but firm way of saying, “No thank you [to the things you don’t need], but how about [a cash donation of X that will help us to Y]!
Preparing and Responding to Hurricane Season
Webinar recording: Large Scale Operations: Animal Cruelty Cases & Natural Disasters
National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster