This week, as people across the United States look forward to a day of giving thanks, the Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP) is highlighting a small number of stories of impact and expressing our gratitude to a small subset of our partners and donors who have made the work we do possible.
Impact Partner: Westfield Insurance Foundation
The Westfield Insurance Foundation came to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy with a problem we specialize in solving. They wanted to become a more educated and sophisticated disaster grantmaker. With a considerable disaster budget already approved by the corporate foundation board, the foundation wanted to clearly articulate when, where and how they would award grants to make a significant impact.
Since we shared a love of food and cooking with the foundation team, we quickly landed on a cooking metaphor to guide our work. The CDP team would help our foundation colleagues move from making scrambled eggs to creating a soufflé. The process involved three essential steps.
- Analyze Current Program. We carefully analyzed Westfield Insurance Foundation’s disasters giving over the past five years. We reviewed their grantmaking policies and procedures, including grant guidelines and applications. We also learned about their corporate foundation culture.
- Define Strategic Objectives. The next step focused on definitions: Which disasters should they focus on? When should a grant be made? What geographies should be within and outside the scope of their giving? These questions and many more guided our efforts.
- Refine Grantmaking Guidelines. The final step involved carefully identifying the issues that would be the best “fit” for the foundation with high-impact potential on a disaster context and a discrete set of potential grantees with whom we will be making introductions and forging partnerships.
When asked to describe our partnership, Gretchen Long, community investment leader with the Westfield Insurance Foundation, said:
“We recommend that funders interested in supporting disaster recovery utilize the services of Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP) to design their plans. When a disaster is no longer in the news, it is easy to lose sight of the remaining needs. CDP helps funders keep those needs in sight. As we strive to improve how communities and nonprofits are able to recover from and prepare for disasters, we believe others will benefit from CDP. In addition to their subject matter expertise, CDP staff members were professional, attentive and flexible to our needs and deadlines.
We appreciate that our colleagues at CDP took the approach of getting to know Westfield before prescribing direction. Given their knowledge of the numerous issues and needs within the disaster recovery space, we were impressed that our CDP colleagues were able to be impartial to any type of disaster, group of victims or geographic location. Instead, they got to know our overall philanthropic philosophy as well as the Westfield Insurance corporate structure and culture and objectively offered recommendations.”
Respect for each other’s values, an understanding of the problem that needed to be solved as well as disasters, a deep appreciation of how foundations work and a love of cooking were the key ingredients in this successful working relationship.