Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Hurricane Katrina

I haven't said anything about Hurricane Katrina because there's really nothing to say when these things happen.

FEMA has information on how you can help.

As for me, I donated to the Red Cross.

Please do what you can for those in need.

Once you've done that, come back and read the rest of this.

First, if you're one of my conservative readers who just puts up with my left-leaning ways, and you're a fan of G.W. Bush, scroll to the next paragraph. Nothing to see here. This just burns me. And so does this. And this. Now you could argue that Think Progress is exploiting the tragedy for to score political points with these posts. I'd reply that it takes one to know one. The fact is, at times like these, we need funds and we need leaders. And I have learned where to begin looking for those things - and where not to. [UPDATE (5:25 PM): I'll give Bush some credit. He's cancelling his vacation, which is great. So why do I find myself recalling this?]

Foundation boards and staff, please take a moment to review your emergency grantmaking policies. If you don't have one, get one. I know you've got an endowment to manage and program areas that deserve your continuous support, but there's no reason that your foundation can't give a little in the event of some calamity. Many certainly do, and that relief is incredible. The Council has some resources on disaster grantmaking created in the wake of 9/11 that can help you with your discussion. Just make disaster relief a part of your foundation's machinery so that when disaster strikes, the funds to rebuild are there.

Philanthropists as a group should also prepare for these things. If your program area is scientific research, the more we know about how hurricanes form and behave, the more prepared we can be for them. Also, every region has its natural disasters - earthquakes in California, hurricanes in the southeast, tornadoes in the plains - is there any way that funds can be set up in a given region as a sort of philanthropic insurance in the event of these disasters? Foundations could contribute to a separate regional fund or to a set of donor-advised funds at community foundations in the area so that funds would be available for use in the event of a disaster. I know, I know, it's called FEMA. It's called the Red Cross. But, seriously, do such funds exist? If not, would they be a good idea? Philanthropy as social insurance - it might be worth some thought.

Finally, philanthropists ought to be concerned with rising levels of poverty in our country. Natural disasters disproportionately affect the poor. Your important work in matters of social and economic justice matters, especially at times like these.

For now, though, don't think. Give.

No comments: