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Resilient Philanthropy: Community Foundations in Disaster Management

This blog is inspired by Foundant’s March 18th education webinar. You can view the recording of the original event here.

Do you remember when we could all get in a room and talk to each other about things? Remember the constant stream of thoughts, feelings, and ideas that came from those conversations? Do you remember all the positive outcomes that came from a healthy discussion, great planning, and the capacity to follow through and execute those plans? If you work for a community foundation, I’d bet you remember them fondly and cannot wait to do it again. 
Back in March of this year, I had the pleasure of facilitating a webinar about collaboration through the PPREP (Philanthropic Preparedness, Resiliency, and Emergency Partnership) initiative with three participants of the cohort. Nancy Anthony from the Oklahoma City Foundation, Kelly Thompson of the Quad Cities Community Foundation, and Brian Fogle from the Community Foundation of the Ozarks took time to meet and discuss the impact that PPREP had on their organizations and how it will change the future of disaster response.  

 The Role of Community Foundations

Community foundations play many roles in their community. They can be an advocator, a capacity builder, a funder, but maybe most importantly, a convener. 

A foundation doesn't have to be large to be impactful. It just has to be ready and willing to connect with the community.   

~Nancy Anthony | President | Oklahoma City Foundation

Being able to bring together a group of people from within your community can not only benefit the foundation itself but benefit the nonprofits and other stakeholders it supports. This, in turn, benefits the community or region and improves everyone’s quality of life for years to come. 

The Impact of Conveners

Why is it important that a community foundation be a convener for their community? One reason is obvious; they have the funds to make things happen. From DAFs, to FOI funds, to their unrestricted dollars, community foundations have the influence to provide a substantial impact to their nonprofit partners. However, these funds don’t just pop up on their own. As a community foundation, it is your responsibility to form connections prior to the disaster. 

A community after a disaster is a community before another [disaster].   

~Kelly Thompson | VP of Grantmaking and Community Initiatives | Quad Cities Community Foundation

It's hard to make friends during a crisis.   

~Brian Fogle | President | Community Foundation of the Ozarks

Focusing on preparedness and furthering connections with different players in the area can create lasting partnerships. People and organizations have donated their trust (literally and figuratively) to the community foundation, creating both an impactful legacy locally and personally.
Being a convener also means sharing knowledge with partners. The PPREP cohort, a collection of community foundations throughout the Midwest, allowed information necessary to prepare their community for disaster to be shared. This knowledge better allowed them to rebuild and reach former normalcy. The established partnership between The Funder’s Network and the Center for Disaster Philanthropy sought to strengthen these foundations by building their capacity to prepare their communities for disasters. While the focus of these cohort meetings is mostly around long-term recovery and how the community foundation plays a key role, they also play an important role in the preparation and immediate recovery. They are there to tell the community, “You are not alone in this. We are with you every step of the way.” 

The Future of Community Partnerships

Because of this cohort and partnership, community foundations in areas where disasters occur nearly every year were able to gather some of their key community partners to pass along the knowledge they had learned. The community foundation led these meetings and in turn,those organizations shared their roles in the community, their strengths and weaknesses when a disaster hits, and what they’d like to do to improve. 

These meetings created newly developed partnerships of organizations, who may not have realized how much they needed each other. It enabled those organizations to improve their emergency plans and support them with funds to make the improvements, thus improving their organization. Some organizations were able to update their communications plan, so they can better inform the community of impending trouble. 

Often there are players such as the media or government officials that individuals look toward when disaster strikes. It’s important for community foundations to reach out and make their goals and capacity known. As disasters come in all shapes and sizes, some specifically being less tangible than others, creating awareness during disaster preparedness allows for community foundation’s to nimbly react based on local outreach.

In order to build a solid foundation in your community, with organizations working together for the greater good, you need a solid community foundation that will step up and be the leader. Even better is a team of foundations formed through partnerships similar to the PPREP cohort.

The featured thumbnail image was provided by Daan Stevens from

About the Author

Andrew worked in the non-profit field for nearly 10 years before joining Foundant. He has been both a grantor at a Community Foundation, and a grantee at a children's museum. This wide range of experience helps Andrew understand the ins and outs of a variety of grant and scholarship processes, and to be a non-profit community partner. He knows all the good these organizations do for their communities, and wants nothing more than to make their jobs easier, so they can spend more of their time making a difference! Originally from Davenport, Iowa, Andrew now resides in Madison, Wisconsin. He enjoys a good round of golf, a lazy Saturday afternoon, and spending time with his family.

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