Have a plan?

Evacuation1-e1369517940796-768x1024It is a Saturday morning and I’m catching up on emails at the Nashville Ballet Studio while my oldest daughter prepares for her Spring Recital. Sitting at the table in the staff kitchen, a sign caught my eye.“Studio Evacuation Plan”.
The laminated one-pager begins by stating that “In case of emergency, faculty and staff are expected to lead students and guests to safety by following these directions and guidelines.” The directions and guidelines then outline what to do and where to go from each of the respective dance studios.  They conclude with the words  “Stay calm. Don’t panic.”
I am struck by this clear and concise 8.5 x 11 laminated sheet of paper because it brings to life one of the recommendations that I offer to funders: the critical importance of Having A Plan.
I want funders to be clear on what their strategies are for responding to disasters and to think through  their approach.  The plan can be simple or complex,  highly detailed or loosely outlined. But as funders, we must have a plan.  We need to determine what resources to bring to bear before, during and after a disaster.  We need to be clear on who on our team is responsible for what, and have clarity of purpose around who on the team has authority and responsibility for what, when, and why. There are many ways craft a strategy for disaster response.
Here’s a basic outline for a strong plan.

  1. Define a disaster for your organization
  2. Define to which disasters your organization will respond
  3. Describe your organization’s unique abilities to support a disaster response
  4. Outline your assets. Where are your areas of expertise?  Which team members can bring those areas of expertise to bear? What existing relationships can you wield during a crisis?
  5. Fill the gaps. Based on your assets list, outline what is missing. Are there relationships that you should forge now? Is there a course that one of your staff could attend? Should you ally with a firm that can enhance some of your expertise?
  6. Write your plan. State clearly how you will respond to a disaster, what issue areas will you focus on, who is in charge of what on your team, and outline the signing authority matrix for this kind of grantmaking.
  7. Vet the plan with all stakeholders in your organization. Vet the plan with trusted advisors.
  8. Implement the plan. In the event of a disaster, implement your plan as you have it laid out.

I’d welcome the opportunity to speak with disaster funders and potential disaster funders about developing their strategy. Just email me at regine.webster@disasterphilanthropy.org.