Amplifying disaster philanthropy: The crucial role of general operating support

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In disaster philanthropy, there is a vital aspect that is often overlooked – the importance and value of general operating support. While funding for specific programming is undeniably essential in the wake of disasters, donors must recognize the equal importance of supporting nonprofits’ capacity to fulfill their mission. We especially urge that during the response to the Hawaii (Hawaiian: Hawai’i) wildfires.

By empowering organizations to meet their broader goals, donors can magnify their philanthropic impact and contribute to more enduring and transformative disaster philanthropy.

Invest in flexibility during rapidly changing conditions

As we’ve seen recently, disasters often strike with little warning, leaving communities in dire need of immediate assistance. During subsequent phases of disaster recovery, their needs change. At the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, we’ve seen this lead to gaps in funding because funders are often focused on the immediate response and don’t consider that recovery is ever-evolving. By providing flexible funding not tied to specific projects, donors empower organizations to allocate resources efficiently where they are needed most.

In the report “State of Nonprofits 2023: What Funders Need to Know,” The Center for Effective Philanthropy highlighted: “The change that has been most helpful is to have true general operating support so we can be flexible as conditions rapidly change.”

General operating support enables organizations to maintain flexibility in their actions and decision-making. This adaptability can be a game-changer in disaster response efforts, allowing organizations to be nimble and respond to their community’s most urgent needs.

As our CEO, Patty McIlreavy, mentioned in a blog post: “At the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, we encourage all donors to be disaster philanthropists. As the pandemic has shown, disasters are personal and affect everyone differently. Our giving should reflect our understanding of this through donating money to the professionals who know best how to help the people most impacted.”

Support the mobilization of knowledge and fostering of innovative philanthropic approaches

Effective disaster response requires access to accurate and up-to-date information. General operating support allows organizations to invest in content creation and accessible educational resources that provide valuable insights and guidance to various stakeholders.

Research reports, data analysis, webinars and educational materials shed light on the complexities of disasters and how to respond effectively and responsibly. By supporting the administrative capacity to produce and share such content, philanthropic efforts become more informed and impactful. For example, at CDP, we are grateful for the general operating support we receive, which makes it possible to create the invaluable educational resources we offer.

Enhancing understanding and collaboration

Disasters are multifaceted events that demand a concerted effort involving multiple stakeholders. General operating support enables organizations to invest in collaborative efforts that bring together experts, practitioners and affected communities for a more equitable and strategic recovery.

This investment is key to fostering a culture of understanding and cooperation, as these resources facilitate better coordination between donors, nonprofits, foundations and individuals. As a result, disaster philanthropy becomes more efficient, maximizing its impact.

A way CDP has been able to do this is by establishing the Network of Disaster Funders, a community of funders that centers equitable recovery and promotes effective disaster philanthropy by strengthening connections and shared learnings.

With the support of general operating funding, CDP has also been able to bring together the Strengthening Local Humanitarian Leadership Philanthropic Collaborative (LHL). LHL is a group of US-based funders dedicated to enhancing local humanitarian responders’ capabilities and reach through grantmaking that shifts resources and decision-making power to affected communities, fostering equity, solidarity, and local partnerships to address inequitable recoveries and systems while also advocating for similar practices among American philanthropic organizations.

Strengthening nonprofit resilience

Nonprofit organizations play a central role in disaster response and recovery. However, tight budgets and limited resources can hinder their ability to effectively address crises.

As Cari Cullen, director of CDP’s Midwest Early Recovery Fund, pointed out in a recent blog post: “As funders, we need to support these organizations as they invest in capacity and talent so that they can provide wellness resources for their communities and themselves. At CDP, we provide funding for organizations to add staff, build training and expertise, and mobilize their resources for broader audiences.”

General operating support offers a lifeline to nonprofits, empowering them to build administrative capacity and invest in staff training. By strengthening an organization’s operational resilience, funders are providing an opportunity for these organizations to better navigate the challenges that come with each disaster phase and the ability to continue serving their communities effectively.

Consider an investment in general operating support today during #Match4Recovery

By providing flexible funding that empowers organizations to produce and disseminate valuable content, donors can amplify the impact of their support significantly.

And your support for CDP can go even further this month during our #Match4Recovery campaign!

If you are a first-time donor or you are increasing your support, your gift will be matched dollar-for-dollar. This means your donation will go twice as far to support equitable recovery.

As we look to build a more prepared and compassionate world, embracing the importance of general operating support in disaster philanthropy becomes crucial in ensuring effective, informed and sustainable disaster response efforts. Your support is the catalyst for a stronger, more resilient world – seize this opportunity to be part of our transformative journey!

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