Disasters create an emotional response from those who are not affected that is both powerful and short-lived. There is a powerful urge to help those in need, resulting in people donating money, supplies, and their time.

Americans are well known for responding. For several days after a disaster, we all watch in awe as the TV news shows the devastation and the mental, physical, and emotional suffering of those impacted. So we help.

The Patterson Foundation (TPF) recently acted in kind. As hurricanes Harvey and Irma struck Texas and Florida respectively, and the surrounding states, TPF worked with its disaster partners to structure an immediate and meaningful financial response to jumpstart their fundraising efforts.

TPF was quick to respond and to announce its support because we knew that doing so would allow both Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP) and NetHope to get to work assessing the disasters, responding accordingly, and raising additional dollars so they could continue working well beyond when the news cameras left.

Hurricane Harvey

TPF announced a $250,000 gift to Center for Disaster Philanthropy’s Hurricane Harvey Recovery Fund on August 29, 2017, four days after Harvey reached landfall. This immediate and meaningful financial response positioned CDP to become a major player in responding to this disaster. With TPF’s financial support providing a “vote of confidence,” CDP was able to reach out to many other organizations and raise significantly more money to help those in need. (Not long after TPF announced its support, Facebook chose CDP as the nonprofit it would support by matching funds raised on its platform. Facebook’s support resulted in several other organizations supporting CDP.)

So why did TPF choose CDP? In addition to having a long-term relationship with CDP, TPF is interested in the work after the news cameras leave. We are fairly certain that most of the money flowing in after Hurricane Harvey will go to the immediate needs of those affected. But what about rebuilding these communities? CDP’s Hurricane Harvey Recovery Fund will focus on the medium and long-term recovery needs of the area. Its funding will support the rebuilding of homes, businesses, and infrastructure, while meeting the needs of young children, supporting mental-health needs, and boosting damaged agricultural sectors. This will take years and millions, if not billions, of dollars.

TPF recognizes that it is the long-term impact which is often forgotten and so important for a community to thrive again. We have chosen to focus our efforts on recovery.

Hurricane Irma - Caribbean

As we watched Irma devastate the Caribbean and then approach TPF’s home in Sarasota, FL, TPF had a window of opportunity to act to help those in the Caribbean. Our international disaster partner, NetHope, sent out an “ask” of many of its funders so that it could begin assessing the damage in the Caribbean islands. NetHope works with its 52-member agencies to help establish communications technology following a disaster. Without communication capabilities in place, emergency response teams, authorities, non-governmental organizations, and any other entity trying to assist cannot communicate among themselves. NetHope works to re-establish communications capabilities.

NetHope’s work does not come free. To assess the damage and begin the work of reestablishing communications, it has real expenses including staff, travel, equipment, etc.

Because TPF knew the damage in the Caribbean was life-threatening, it knew that NetHope had to mobilize ASAP. To this end, TPF funded the initial $50,000 needed to allow NetHope’s team to take action. This funding also allowed NetHope to reach out to other funders with confidence.

TPF acted in an immediate and meaningful manner because time mattered.

<And Just When We Thought It Was Over>

Hurricane Irma – United States

While a different type of storm than Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma has been devastating to our home state of Florida. Words cannot describe the destruction in many areas. As I am writing this, many areas of FL are still without electricity, and many of those trying to get back to their homes in Naples and the Keys are prevented from doing so.

Because TPF had learned the importance and power of responding to a disaster, we worked with our domestic partner again, CDP, to provide $250,000 in financial assistance via the Hurricane Irma Recovery Fund. This money will be used for the medium and long-term recovery needs in Florida which are still being assessed.

TPF’s disaster response strategy is to respond in an immediate and meaningful way through our partners, thereby allowing them to leverage the TPF relationship as needed so they can focus their efforts on using their expertise to help those in need.

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