Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Funding Disaster Preparedness and Community Resilience

I recently posted about the Rockefeller Foundation and their move to create a $100 Million Preparedness fund, something that will hopefully change the mindsets of how private donors and foundations view the funding of disaster-related initiatives.  

Any opportunity to challenge traditional funding mindsets is important and I believe by Rockefeller establishing this fund, the current funding trickle that disaster organizations fight over can turn into a steady flow for disaster-related operations and programming. While establishing consistent access to funding is key, I believe there may be a larger opportunity connected to what Rockefeller is doing; I believe there may be an opportunity to leverage this fund, or the idea that spurred the creation of this fund, in a way that can work to create an environment of accountability in reporting, coordination, and the creation of standards to improve the unity of effort around preparedness and community resilience.

The current landscape for disaster funding comes as a reaction to events and as such is based around a shorter-term view of how to measure impact. A great number of donors have their own ideas of what “success” is as it relates to preparedness, response, and recovery, with little overlap existing between those ideas. This diversity makes generating consensus around standards in any facet of the disaster life cycle difficult because everyone is beholden to different funders—for many of whom disaster response is not a part of their mission / mandate.

With the push for broader inclusion around the ideas of resilience and preparedness at a local level, and the money to back it predominately coming through state agencies to local/county Emergency Management Agencies (EMA), there is little room to support those at the ground level through education and planning to further the ideas of resilience beyond its current state.

As a philanthropic leader, The Rockefeller Foundation can as part of its existing preparedness fund, or with the creation of a separate fund, begin to implement a standards-based grant program that offers money for preparedness and resilience focused initiatives. In exchange for accepting funding, community based organizations would have to adopt an operational framework and common standards that relate to disasters that scale to meet needs, and can be easily replicated. Sounds easy, right? We know money is a means to an end, and we’ve seen the success of this funding model with the dollars flowing from the Federal government to City, County, and State EMA. As long as NIMS/ICS compliance is maintained, State Agencies remain eligible for Federal dollars, which is what a large percentage of their operational budgets are derived from.

The result is consistency in action across City, County, and State EMA, something that hasn’t been possible in the non-profit world. The reason why there is uniformity of effort and a greater consistency in language amongst the federal family is because of the strings attached to available dollars requiring compliance with NIMS/ICS.

I believe The Rockefeller Foundation can be the financial muscle that gets the ball rolling for a similar initiative amongst disaster response and community resilience focused non-profits. With the help of IAEM, CNCS, NVOAD, FEMA and other leaders in the sector, the creation of a commonly accepted framework for the preparedness and response can be built with a financial incentive for adopting it.

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