While attending the Women’s Philanthropy Institute 2017 Symposium recently, I was struck by the question Trista Harris posed, “How will you make time for the future in your present?”

23d57fdDuring her plenary session, Trista Harris, president & CEO of the Minnesota Council on Foundations, argued that all philanthropists must set aside five percent of their time for research and development. For me, that means notionally two hours a week to read, write, and dream about how to improve the field of disaster philanthropy.

Our work at the Center for Disaster Philanthropy focuses on educating donors and encouraging them to focus on the full arc of the disaster lifecycle—not just the immediate relief phase, but also preparedness efforts all the way through a full recovery. While our team is committed to that vision, each one of us is hourly tracking NOAA apps, weather websites, and other resources for clues on when and where the next catastrophe will strike.

We face a tension between following the here and now needs of a potential or current ‘hot’ crisis, and staying focused on the longer-term demands posed by disaster events. Trista’s call to action is testing my own perception that disasters stem from chaos and result in more chaos. We rush in to help in the hopes of rushing out of the disaster as fast as we can. Acting on that perception will not result in effective philanthropy as we, at CDP, envision it.

And so, Trista’s challenge begs a behavior change. During the next few weeks, I will make a point to read the many articles that have been on my desk—working to incorporate new thinking from these articles into my work practice.

Here is what is on my desk right now to read:

I am making the commitment to read more as a small step to informing my work practice. I’ll close by posing Trista’s question to you: “What will you do with five percent of your time to envision the future you want to see?”