Monday, September 30, 2013

Could this be the worst hurricane season on record?

You feel that? It's getting a little chilly outside, especially if you're in the northeast. The leaves are just beginning to change and it's officially fall. As people put their thoughts of a possible Indian summer to bed and takeout their jackets and boots, they also generally think that they've dodged a bullet when it comes to Hurricane season.

Now you might be laughing to yourself saying that I'm a moron! Don't you remember Hurricane Sandy? How can you say that people have put those thoughts to bed when the Anniversary is right around the corner--at the END of October? And that Hurricane season doesn't end until the END of November? And you'd be right, all of those things are true save for the moron part; we still have a lot of Hurricane season to anxiously wait through and there's a lot of media reminding us of that fact:
When you read through these articles asking what's going on, you can almost sense that they're pissed, an almost "What Gives?" attitude; you promised us an above average hurricane season...remember?" 

NOAA: Atlantic hurricane season on track to be above-normal

Yet here we sit...waiting, wondering, silently cursing the powers that forecast our fate...and we do this because we can't do anything else. 

So, how can I say that this may be the worst hurricane season on record if nothing has happened yet? Well, it was a tad dramatic to say "the worst" but it's pretty bad. Remember the heeded warnings that preceded Hurricane Irene? Shutdown subways, runs on food, and people getting out of town? It was a major inconvenience, but people did it. When Irene fell short of producing forecasted impacts, people felt lied to and the city took a hit financially from cancelled events and shuttered infrastructure. From a preparedness perspective it was a huge win though, the city was prepared for a potential storm and pulled through relatively unscathed. What happened though was that it eroded the confidence in the forecasting models and in the decision-makers who urged people get ready...because nothing happened.

Fast forward to Sandy coming up the eastern seaboard a year later and a similar situation unfolded. Warnings were communicated, subways were shuttered, and on the barrier islands evacuation notices were issued. However, because people felt burned by the false alarm that was Irene, those warnings fell on deaf ears--a, 'fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me' mentality.

So in saying that this is potentially the "worst" hurricane season on record is due to the potentially damaging ramifications from a psychological perspective. People have short memories when it comes to disasters, a sort of disaster amnesia. Right now hurricane season has the attention of many more people than it would otherwise, with the proverbial preparedness pump primed for people to exercise plans made in preparation of, or in response to Sandy. If nothing happens this season, that would be fantastic, but I believe that the amnesia will begin to set in and the focus on individual, family, and small business preparedness will fade into the ether--which is not so fantastic.

Getting people to take notice of preparedness activities and integrate them into their lives is one of the greatest challenges we face as practitioners. It's unfortunate that it takes an event where loss of life and property occur for people to take notice and more importantly, take action. It's an even more unfortunate that the action it fuels is so short-lived. Without a constant reminder of why being prepared is so important, people forget, because it's easier and less overwhelming to let it slip away than to remain vigilant.

For those who are still in the process of recovery in the mid-Atlantic region, Sandy is not a distant memory but an everyday reality. The luxury of letting what happened slip away is not a possibility, so while the limited physical impacts of a quiet hurricane season are wonderful, the psychological toll it takes on how people view preparedness can make the quiet years some of the most damaging.  

Friday, September 27, 2013

This is not a Test...

Tech, people, ideas, disasters...when you clear away all the buzz words, jargon, and platitudes, it's time to see what is actually being done to utilize available tech for the betterment of society. The Social Good Summit brought a lot of ideas to light, and highlighted some of the good work being done by leveraging technology; however, outside of the fight against Malaria, concrete examples of tech in action were few and far between. So when I opened the paper upon my return to Southern California I was surprised to read that Governor Jerry Brown recently signed a bill appropriating roughly $80 million towards the implementation of an earthquake early warning system.

Photo taken from
 The installation of this early warning detection system will be a series of sensor arrays that will build upon the existing infrastructure setup by CISN or the California Integrated Seismic Network in Southern CA. Given the looming threat earthquakes pose to the communities in Southern California it's surprising that it's taken this long to put something like this into action. Japan, Mexico, Taiwan, Turkey, Italy, Romania, and China are all countries that have an early warning system in place to detect seismic activity, and while there are no immediate plans to expand this system, it's something the entire West Coast would no doubt benefit from.

Simple explanation
Upon first reading articles stating that $80 Million would be allocated to this project I didn't really see the upside given that Earthquakes define the sudden onset disaster paradigm. So how much of a notice would an "early" warning system give? It turns out that it has the potential to give enough time (in some scenarios close to 60 seconds) to do a lot of good: stop trains, warn people, and help to get them into the right frame of mind to deal with and persevere through a major earthquake event. With the ability to connect with smart phones, highway signage, and through traditional means on TV and radio, the potential of connecting with a large segment of the population is quite high.

In Japan, prior to the the March 2011 9.0 that struck off their coast, mass texts were sent and warnings were automatically broadcast on television and radio, according to some sources, 80 precious seconds of warning were given. That warning coupled with the consistent building standards helped to ameliorate what could've been a significant loss of life and property.

And while this system will no doubt have a positive impact and help save the lives of many when the big one does hit, one has to wonder how vulnerable a system like that is? What happens when something like that misfires? While certainly a false alarm is better than having it preempt a massive earthquake, I'm thinking more along the lines of the probable mental impacts that would be linked to a false alarm.

And while there are potential risks with any new technology, the early warning system has the potential to give people the opportunity to put themselves into a better situation with the time they're given...the only thing left is ensuring that a well-informed public knows what to do with the time they're given.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Social Goodness

After a day of travel, recovery, and catching up on work, I bring to you the final installment on my experience at the Social Good Summit; three days that have left me both exhausted and invigorated.

After working in the disaster space for a while, the community can feel small, which made attending this event a welcome opportunity to gain perspective and meet some new faces along the way. And while I may have some beef with certain aspects of the summit, it doesn’t change the fact that listening to people who are passionate and actively engaged in what they’re doing is something that I really enjoy.

So…what was it all about?

Some of the messages that were hammered home were: getting engaged, creating social movements, and empowering millennials. I realize that based on those cliched takeaways that I could've attended a conference on any number of topics, but that's what was scribbled over and over in my notes. And while they may be overused, it doesn't make them any less valid or important. Many of the speakers/panelists from Mashable to [Insert successful nonprofit here] have gained prominence and generated impact because they've been able to strike the right balance of the above factors.

With that said, there were two speakers who didn't represent organizations or foundations, they came as emissaries of two important ideas related to some of the consequences in the increase in ubiquity of social media.

1. Doug Rushkoff. Author, Communications Theorist, and all around smart guy gave a very insightful and brief talk on an interesting question: "What happens, When Everything Happens Now?" Below is his talk from a previous speaking engagement but is basically the same and here is his website:

2. Matt Wallaert. Behavioral Scientist, Entrepreneur, and also a smart guy who talked about: "Competing Pressures: The Struggle for the Future of Attention." As the tools to create movements around ideas and causes become more readily available, the number of messages competing for our attention and our dollars will increase. Matt talked about ways around our limited spans of attention, but his talk reminds me that the proliferation of organizations and causes may have a negative impact on social giving and the social impact space as a whole.

Was there enough talk of Disasters? Definitely not, but through my conversations and learning about my new champion President Yudhoyono, I’ve also stumbled onto something called the “Hyogo Framework for Action: 2005-2015. Building the Resilience of Nations and Communities in Disasters.” Something I will happily read and no doubt comment on. I also learned about some new nonprofits working to end Malaria and those who are trying to raise awareness around social issues that are impacting every country on the planet.

So while the Summit didn’t fit my pre-conceived notions of what I thought it should be, it left me with a lot of ideas, a lot of reading, and hopefully a little smarter and more aware of the challenges facing the world around us, and better equipped to tell that story through this blog.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Disasters as a footnote in the conversation on Climate Change

Climate Reality Project
Yesterday I wrote about how the Social Good Summit's theme of #2030NOW is an opportunity to inform the direction of the Post-2015 Agenda, or life after the Millennium Development Goals. With that understanding, I eagerly awaited today to hear about how the concept of climate change and disasters would be woven into some of the panels and presentations, and more importantly, how it would be cemented in the bedrock of the charter from which the global development community would derive its strategic direction for the next 15 years.

Al Gore kicked off the climate change portion of the day with an impassioned call to arms around climate action and introduced presentations like: We're already paying the cost of Carbon, Today's Solutions Tomorrow's Future, and Millennials Leading the Way. While very interesting, I was ultimately disappointed that disasters were only talked about as an outcome of unchecked carbon emissions rather than a topic within the broader conversation with it's own panel/presentation. 

I know that I shouldn't be surprised by this given that it was Al Gore leading the afternoon, but I feel that it was short-sighted. For the purposes of today's discussion at the Social Good Summit, Climate Change and the solutions proposed were economically based. Provide incentives to business to reduce carbon emissions by levying taxes or a financial tariff and bam! bottom-line thinking that gets at the root of the problem in a language business can understand. Talking in those terms however does not address the secondary and tertiary issues that arise from the fact that disasters are increasing in frequency and intensity, and ultimately affecting millions of people across the world annually. 

There was no talk of creating more resilient communities better prepared to deal with the cycle of drought, flooding, and famine in Africa, nor how vulnerable populations are addressing the challenges of flooding in cities like Manila. And there was certainly no talk of innovative technological solutions addressing the lack of coordination within OCHA's cluster system, nor how emergent groups are giving early recovery a facelift thanks to innovative social technologies. When looking at disasters through the lens of carbon emission, you're not talking about how to address the ongoing impacts of this augmented climate reality all of us are living in. Of course addressing the root of the problem is critical, but the conversation can and should be about so much more.

There was a bright spot however, Maggie Fox, CEO of the Climate Reality Project talked about climate change in the context of current events, i.e. the flooding in Colorado. She contextualized the issue by talking about how the impacts of this new climate reality are already unfolding in communities across the world and left the door open to continue to broaden the conversation as we move towards 2015. 

I realize that this summit is about expanding how we approach the unfinished business of the MDGs with new tech and fresh ideas, but I also thought it was about expanding upon what was built 13 years ago to encompass the new reality we face, the progress made, and the challenges we've encountered.

Indonesian President Yudhoyono...aka: STUD
Feeling down because no one wanted to talk about disasters, I turned to my friend the internet and looked for hope and found it in Indonesia's President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Hailed as the global champion for Disaster Risk Reduction, President Yudhoyono has mounted a crusade to ensure that the gains made in addressing the MDGs are not put in jeopardy due to the increasing risks natural disasters pose. The fact that there is an advocate championing this cause at some of the highest levels within the international development community, and one that represents a country with a deep appreciation for the impacts disasters can have on all aspects of community, gives me hope that the Post-2015 Agenda will have a broader approach to such an important issue.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Social Good Summit: Day 1

Day 1 of the Social Good Summit and I'm in recovery. Today was a mind melting, rapid-fire, Ted-styled idea jam™. Six hours of captivating stories, innovative ideas, and compelling calls to action, from how technology is playing a central role in combating malaria, to the quest for conflict free technology and the dark-side of society's techno-fetish. The discussions and conversations had today were and continue to be a lot to process. 

The theme of this years Social Good Summit is #2030NOW, building on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) created in 2000 to help to guide the discussion for what the post-2015 conversation will look like...with 2030 being the metaphorical finish line.

Giving yourself 15 years to tackle significant systemic issues impacting the global human condition--to say that's ambitious would be an understatement. So with 2015 fast approaching, the UN issued a progress report in July giving a state of the union on where things stand related to the MDGs:
So what does any of this have to do with the Social Good Summit? Even with the report citing some amazing progress being made, due to a myriad of factors, the MDGs won't be realized by the original deadline. So instead of dropping it, a Post-2015 Agenda is being created, and because things have changed since the MDGs were created, like new instruments to measure impact and new approaches conceived at conferences like Rio+20, a shift in the approach to the post-2015 agenda is needed.

Enter the Social Good Summit.

While the purpose of the Summit isn't to write the book on how to approach life after 2015, it is talking about how to continue chipping away at the MDGs and to do so with greater efficiency. Since 2000 there has been explosive growth in the development and application of technology, mobile or otherwise, in addressing many of the societal issues outlined by the MDGs. By bringing together leaders in industry, the humanitarian sector, education, nonprofits, and the social media sphere to talk about what's working and what isn't, the resulting nuggets of wisdom gained through trial and error can hopefully be incorporated into how 2015 and beyond is approached.

Bring on Day 2.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Not enough hours

Hi everyone,

I'm sorry to say that chances are slim that I'll be posting today. I've been in New York, New Jersey, and Rhode Island talking with nonprofits active in long term recovery post-Sandy while watching and supporting nonprofits actively engaged in the response efforts in Colorado. While my time with these community-based organizations in the Mid-Atlantic region has been fruitful, it has left little opportunity to sit and write.

Between this and the Social Good Summit (which I'm still looking for your input on), my posting may be a tad sporadic over the next couple of days.

Thanks for your patience...for shorter and less in depth updates to hold you over check out the facebook page:

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

FEMA's Think Tank

The least innovative logo design
After highlighting the Social Good Summit (which I'm still soliciting input for), I began to look at what else is being done to solicit input and ideas from a broader audience to address the problems we face as a community of practice. Given the 'whole of community' push, events like the Social Good Summit miss the opportunity to hear from stakeholder's themselves, people who aren't in senior-level positions but still have something to say. So is there a forum for everyday people to have their voice heard? How is the whole of community being included in the process of ideation and innovation outside of response activities?

The answer, or part of the answer is the FEMA Think Tank. Some critics of the Federal Government may say that the title of the entity is an oxymoron, but the fact remains that a forum exists where anyone who believes they can contribute to the National conversation on community preparedness, response, recovery, mitigation, etc...has the opportunity to submit an idea.

The Think Tank has two main components, an online forum and a discussion session conducted by FEMA's Deputy Administrator Rich Serino.

Online Forum
This aspect of the Think Tank allows individuals to submit ideas, the community then reads and votes on each idea, the concept being, the higher the score, the more people agree. An aspect of this forum that I appreciate is the fact that you need to create a profile before submitting and/or voting. While the system can still be influenced, the gating factor seems to provide enough of a deterrent so that things aren't skewed too much in one direction or the other.

Discussion Sessions
This part of the Think Tank is equally as interesting. Based on the ideas generated from the online forum, conference calls are held by Deputy Administrator Rich Serino in an effort to engage a broader audience within emergency management and disaster response to discuss the ideas brought to light via the forum.

Critics have called this more of a dog and pony show than actually seeking out and stress testing new ideas, but the fact remains that it exists and is being used. The motivations for its creation can be questioned, but if people are gaining access to a senior level FEMA official to talk about ideas they have to better what we do, then I would say that its accomplishing something fairly unique.

FEMA is working not only with the public at large, it's also working to leverage the expertise of the private sector to help create solutions to persistent challenges in the disaster space. FEMA recently held a "Data Jam / Think Tank," and while the name sounds like something my Mom might have come up with, it attracted some savvy tech companies: Air BnB, twillo, google, Huffington Post's Social Impact to name a few, to focus on Innovating to improve Disaster Recovery.

Technology is empowering individuals, those who have gone through an event and those who haven't. It's giving everyone a chance to have a voice, and while having a voice is important, it's what you choose to say that ends up making a difference. And with outlets like the Think Tank and access to tools that previously didn't exist, what people choose to say is being magnified and making a difference.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Social Good Summit
The above graphic represents the ubiquitous nature of social media applications while illustrating the pervasiveness with which they've permeated almost every aspect of our lives.

It's clear that social media has revolutionized the way we tell stories, report the news, relate to one another, build community, and help one another, and with the understanding that this is only the beginning, it's important that we ask how these tools can help create solutions to some of the larger problems we face. Solutions like Crisis Cleanup are an example of how properly leveraged social media coupled with existing institutions within our social fabric (google maps, 2-1-1, etc), can provide the foundation upon which new ideas and solutions to persistent problems can be created.

In that vein, I'm pleased share that I have been accepted to attend the Social Good Summit, a conference that provides an opportunity to talk about the intersection of big ideas and new media in an effort to create solutions to some of our most pressing social challenges. The speaker power at this event is quite impressive and while I wish I was invited as a panelist, I have the privilege of attending as a member of the press representing this blog. (horn toot)

With sponsors like the UN Foundation, The United Nations Development Program, and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, this event is an exciting opportunity...Jeremey, what do you mean by exciting opportunity?

Well, I'm glad you asked.

This is an exciting opportunity due to the diverse and influential crowd attending this event. This can be an opportunity to advocate for the increase of focus and resources available to build resilience and preparedness given the increased frequency and intensity of events that are impacting our communities. Given that real change takes time and my time will be limited, I'm asking for your help.

If you were attending this event what are the sorts of questions you would ask? While I look funny dressed up, this is an opportunity to advocate on behalf of our community of practice and your input is valued. I believe that we can get more out of this event if more perspectives are included in the mix--think of it like crowdsourcing to get the best possible outcome.

So, based on the outline below what would you ask? 
The Social Good Summit unites a dynamic community of global leaders to discuss a big idea: the power of innovative thinking and technology to solve our greatest challenges: to unlock the potential of new media and technology to make the world a better place, and then to translate that potential into action.
I don't know what to expect but with our collective brain trust it's my hope to generate conversations around issues important to us as a community of practice.

Thanks in advance for your help.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Coordinating Cleanup 1.0

Crisis Cleanup has a great logo
Nonprofits setting up operations in Colorado are abuzz with talk of Crisis Cleanup, the brain child of Aaron Titus, a guy who said "there's got to be a better way to organize some of the chaos of early recovery cleanup" (I made that quote up) and created a tool that's doing just that. He created a tool that works to advance how nonprofit organizations engage in cleanup activities following a disaster.

The cliff's notes version is that Crisis Cleanup is a google map populated with cleanup needs represented by pins dropped on the location of said need. Registered organizations can claim pins so that other responding groups don't accidentally send teams to a home that has already received help. There is a reporting aspect that accompanies this so that hours can be tracked and volunteer numbers logged, an innovative solution that helps manage the nonprofit aspect of early recovery cleanup following disasters.

I had an opportunity to be a user of the system after Hurricane Sandy as part of its beta testing during response and saw the potential. Since then the system has been implemented several times with what I hope are fixes and advances making it easier to use and more comprehensive from a data capture perspective.

Screen shot of the user interface -- Superstorm Sandy
With the system being used in Colorado to coordinate nonprofit cleanup activities, I'm interested in hearing from anyone who uses it to manage their infield work flow to get your thoughts on the system within the context of cleanup coordination.

And while I'm optimistic about how Crisis Cleanup can work to provide the autonomy nonprofits seek while working within a defined system, I feel that it's important to remember the need to be inclusive.

Spontaneous response in disaster and the substantial impact it has during early recovery activities is no longer an ignorable trend. Social media is being used to organize armies of volunteers to aid in response and recovery, and it's happening as I write this in Colorado. As a community of practice we must strive to include as many of these emergent groups as possible in response coordination. Not only is it key in working towards enacting the "all of nation" or "whole of community" approach to preparedness and response as outlined by Presidential Policy Directive 8, but its important for unity of effort to provide better coordinated service delivery to those affected.

As it stands the crisis cleanup tool is largely for vetted organizations, those with a response history or those who are "known" entities. And while I understand why the system is setup this way, to help ensure consistency in the work done on behalf of homeowners, I feel that there is a solution that can set an expectation as to the level of work needing to be done, while encouraging broader inclusion of locally responding groups.

All Disasters Are Local, a tired expression but one that holds truth; and while Crisis Cleanup has taken a monumental step in unifying early recovery cleanup from a nonprofit perspective, I believe that there is work to be done to ensure access to this tool makes its way down to the emergent groups on a local level. For it's those groups that have the biggest stake in ensuring that their communities make a full recovery and as such rightfully deserve to be included within the broader coordinated effort.

A tip of my cap to you Mr. Titus, I look forward to seeing how we can evolve the model moving forward.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Colorado Flooding and Information You Already Know

Colorado is experiencing unprecedented rainfall, the level of precipitation combined with recent fire burn scars, the geography that constitutes the foothill region, and proximity to densely populated areas, is causing serious problems across Boulder, Jefferson, Larimer, and El Paso Counties.

Update: The President has approved Federal Disaster Declarations for Boulder, Larimer, and El Paso counties. 

If you can, tune in to the weather channel, they are and will continue to do their equivalent to election night coverage and while there's no Alexandra Steele, Jim Cantore and the rest of the team are doing a bang up job explaining why this is happening. If you think the weather channel is sensationalistic garbage then check out Joel Gratz at, he does a good job of explaining what's happening to cause this rare rain event as well.

At this point I would transition to what is being done in response, but I can't because as of 11pm Thursday night, it's still raining, there are still evacuation warnings, and the potential for this to get worse is very high given that it's supposed to continue to rain through Friday.

At this point emergency management is feverishly working to ensure that no more lives are lost while the beginnings of nonprofit and spontaneous response activities are taking place: Occupy has setup a Boulder response Facebook page and I imagine others will in the coming days, Twitter has exploded with hashtags: #COFlood, #COwx, #boulderflood, etc...and I anticipate the CO VOAD to initiate conference calls in the next 24 hours. The machine is starting up and even with my understanding that Colorado is a well prepared state, I still fear that the same challenges in nonprofit coordination will exist on the ground. 

It is my hope that the Natural Hazard Center at UC Boulder, a prominent research facility, captures as much information about the progression of response from all angles and uses that information to help build inclusive frameworks for other cities to replicate moving forward. I'm not holding my breath, but I think it would be a great use of their resources and expertise.

We know that the spontaneous response is going to be huge, we know that Social Media and technology are going to play a prominent role, we know nationally responding organizations are going to deploy is my hope that Boulder and other impacted communities are preparing for that in the midst of everything else, so that when the water recedes: assessments can start, volunteers can be managed, infield activities can be coordinated in a safe and structured manner, and the progress of each impacted community can be tracked so that Long Term Recovery can be quick to start and quick to finish. 

More to come, but in the meantime here are some twitter feeds and sites that have good info to follow:

Colorado OEM: @COEmergency
Larimer County:  @LarimerCounty
Larimer County Sheriff:   @LarimerSheriff
Boulder OEM: @BoulderEOM
CU-Boulder Police:  @CUBoulderPolice
City of Longmont:  @cityoflongmont
Platte Valley Fire Department @PVFPD

Hashtag:  #COflood and #COwx 
Boulder Specific: #Boulderflood
Event Tag:  #WaldoFlood and #WaldoFloods is being used in some areas


Hang in there Colorado...

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Informed Giving, a different type of Preparedness

Engage brain when donating
Up to this point the focus has been on promoting personal preparedness: disaster kits, the innovative ways people are integrating preparedness into everyday life, etc. But there's a side to preparedness that hasn't been discussed and one that isn't usually brought up, it has to deal with being informed on who you're giving your donations to--being a responsible donor.

I've posted some of the ads that push individuals to donate cash in the wake of a disaster because it's flexible, timely, and responsive to the changing needs a community faces. While that's an important message, it's only a small piece of the larger picture to help provide guidance on informed giving.

When articles like: The 50 Worst Charities are published, they prey on the fears of being taken advantage of, the fear that an unknown organization is going to misappropriate your donation. And because I hope you're grabbing your checkbook more than your disaster kit, it's important to feel good about the organizations you're donating to, so here are some tips and resources to help you begin your informed giving education:

Unrestricted Funding is not a bad thing (usually). Nonprofit organizations use unrestricted funds to pay salaries, to keep the lights on, and generally everything that doesn't fall under program expenses. While the topic of unrestricted funding is far more nuanced, the thing to remember is this: if you make a donation to an organization, do it in a way where you can detail how your donation is to be spent. If you want your money to go towards creating a jacuzzi for stray animals, expressly communicate that when making your donation, if you don't, then your donation will end up in a general fund (usually). Again, general or unrestricted funds aren't bad, in fact they are a necessity, but when you think your money is going one place and it's actually going somewhere else and you find feel lied to. example: Moore, OK

Results, what are those? What was accomplished with your money? Holding nonprofits accountable for how your donation is spent means asking questions and following up to make sure they follow through. While writing a check gives you the option of quieting your tormented conscious and moving on, resist that urge and stay engaged and see how your organization of choice chooses to communicate it's activities and their results--doing this may change your view of your nonprofit of choice.

Don't be afraid of new organizations. Yeah, I said it. I've met more people who just started doing stuff following an event than I can count. While their lack of experience usually leads to problems in other aspects of response, the money they receive is usually spent the minute they get it. There's usually no rhyme or reason to how it's spent, oftentimes whatever is needed at the time is where your money goes. It may go to one family in the form of a cash donation so they can cover a car payment, or it may go to the purchasing of tools and contractor bags for volunteers, etc...Chances are your reporting will come in the form of Facebook updates and tweets but you'll know what they're doing with it. Good for people who aren't afraid to take risks and those who want an immediate impact made with their donation.

Community Foundations. These oft overlooked entities are local grant making institutions that existed prior to the event, and are usually involved in the Long Term Recovery of their community (when money is needed to cover financial gaps for a homeowner). Their involvement and knowledge of local needs can be an asset when looking to ensure holistic community recovery. They are already setup to take tax deductible donations and did I mention that they're local?

While being local is good, Community Foundations can be slow to act because of their unfamiliarity with disaster response and recovery and are more susceptible to local politics. Be that as it may, they are a great and lesser known option in the sea of nonprofits.

Do Your Homework. There are resources available that provide information on a wide range of nonprofits: Charity Navigator, the Better Business Bureau, Guidestar, and Great Each of these sites provides different metrics by which to evaluate a nonprofit organization. You can find salaries, 990's, reviews from past volunteers, etc...Just like you wouldn't throw your money into the garbage or on something you don't want, you shouldn't give to an organization just because it's easy.

There are so many great organizations out there deserving of your donations that with a little work and an understanding of the kind of programming you want to support, you can be introduced to a lot of great organizations that will gladly put your money to use while you put your mind at ease.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

9/11 Day of Service

I’m in NYC right now meeting with nonprofits involved in Superstorm Sandy recovery, lending a hand and providing perspective as it relates to their involvement in recovery efforts. This is a very apropos time to be blogging about volunteers, community preparedness, and disasters given my location and the significance of today.

While today’s tragic origins will not be forgotten, a hopeful spin has turned a day of remembrance into a day of action. What started in 2002 as a way to honor a family member who passed helping others get out of the towers, has grown into so much more. 9/11 has become a day of Service and National Remembrance used as a means of paying tribute to those who died, honoring those who bravely acted on behalf of others, and re-connecting with the sense of community we felt in the days and weeks that followed as we looked to do something, anything to help. 

For me, 9/11 was the first time I can clearly remember the palpable desire to do something, to be involved; I was comforted by the fact that I wasn't alone as I saw just how powerful well meaning individuals can be when united by a common cause.

Join the legions of people using today as an opportunity to give back...check out: for inspiration and ideas on what you can do and how you can do.