Have you thought about how your company would react if a natural disaster such as a hurricane, tornado, flood or wildfire struck your community or region? The events of the past few weeks serve as a reminder that it can happen. Hurricane Laura and the California wildfires have affected thousands of businesses and tens of thousands of the people who live and work in the areas of the destruction.
In 2019, 14 disasters caused at least $1 billion each in damage, the fourth highest number of billion-dollar storms in the United States since 1980.1 And there were many more events that affected a smaller geographical area but were just as devastating to communities, individuals, and businesses. So far this year, we’ve seen more than 600 tornadoes, including a particularly deadly and devastating outbreak in Tennessee in early March.2
Usually when we think of disaster preparedness it’s in the context of keeping our employees safe and our businesses resilient. But having a planned charitable giving response is also important. In the aftermath of a disaster, businesses have an opportunity to help employees whose personal property might have been lost or damaged, to help the community that serves as their home, and to express generosity in a way that many employees, present and future, will respond to. Nor does helping have to be restricted to local disasters. In this digital age, when employees can experience far-off disasters in real time, a neighbor in need can be down the street or a thousand miles away.
How can your organization get involved? Short of providing relevantly skilled employee volunteers or donating requested supplies and equipment, your company is uniquely equipped to offer, the best way to help, experts say, is by raising funds to benefit those affected.3
One of the most efficient mechanisms for donating funds in the event of a disaster, either local or in another state or country, is a Disaster Relief Fund Account. This benefit makes it easy to create an ongoing reserve (with contributions from both the company and employees) to be used toward disaster relief in the future or, if you’d prefer, to pull together a limited-time fundraising effort in response to a specific disaster. Donations made to the account are tax deductible.
Of course, collecting the money is only one challenge. Making sure the money goes where it can do the most good is another. Unfortunately, there are some people and organizations ready to exploit generosity and defraud donors. Fortunately, there are also a number of organizations and websites on the lookout for these scam artists. They analyze charitable organizations for their honesty, effectiveness, and for the amount of funding that goes to those in need versus for the organization’s own operating expenses.
Check out Charity Navigator, Great Nonprofits, BBB Wise Giving, CharityWatch and GuideStar. If the organization is too small or new to be rated, look at their website and ask questions before making or sponsoring a donation.
Here are a few rules of thumb when evaluating a charity. CharityWatch recommends funding organizations that spend 75% or more of their budget on program services rather than administration.4 BBB Wise Giving suggests funding established groups, since upstarts, no matter how well intended, might not have the experience and infrastructure to be effective in the near term5. Take a hard look at what a crowdfunding campaign such as GoFundMe is actually funding before you contribute. Whether the organization is big or small, The Federal Trade Commission suggests doing an online search by combining the charitable cause with words like “highly rated charity” or “best charity” and another search combining the charity’s name along with words like “review,” “rating,” or “complaint.”6
But don’t let your concerns about fraud keep you from helping. By giving your employees the opportunity to help others, you’ll be helping your company, too, especially in recruiting a segment of the workforce that is expected this year to become its largest demographic—Millennials.7 Research indicates they place a high value on social and community outreach and are drawn to companies that share that value.8
Editor’s Note: TASC offers a Disaster Relief Fund Account benefit from more than 50 benefit offerings that can be instantly configured into custom plans that meet employee needs – where they are in life.
- ”2010-2019: A landmark decade of U.S. billion-dollar weather and climate disasters,” Climate.gov, January 2020: https://www.climate.gov/news-features/blogs/beyond-data/2010-2019-landmark-decade-us-billion-dollar-weather-and-climate
- “Facts + Statistics: Tornadoes and Thunderstorms,” Insurance Information Institute, 2020: https://www.iii.org/fact-statistic/facts-statistics-tornadoes-and-thunderstorms#:~:text=2019%20Tornadoes%3A%20Preliminary%20NOAA%20reports,with%2010%20people%20in%202018.
- “Avoiding the Second Disaster: How (Not) to Donate during a Crisis,” Good360, May 2020: https://good360.org/blog-posts/avoiding-the-second-disaster-how-not-to-donate-during-a-crisis/
- “How to help those affected by Hurricane Laura,” CNBC, August 2020: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/08/28/how-to-help-those-affected-by-hurricane-laura.html
- “How to donate wisely and avoid charity scams,” United States Federal Trade Commission, September 2020: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/how-donate-wisely-and-avoid-charity-scams
- “How Millennials are Changing Philanthropy,” Forbes, August 2018: https://www.forbes.com/sites/theyec/2018/08/15/how-millennials-are-changing-philanthropy/#51cab7107c68