Funders & Doers: Teaming up for disaster relief, #GivingTuesday & Beyond

Whenever huge natural disasters like Typhoon Haiyan strike, our reflex is to be shocked and paralyzed by the devastation. In today's 24/7 media culture, we get bombarded by images of victims, orphans and destroyed homes. Of course, we all want to help, and many of us step forward to give whatever we can in those first few days. That's the right thing to do, for the people of the Philippines and around the world. The trouble is, most of us tend to remember to give only after disasters and during the holiday season -- especially with the growing popularity of the
, observed Dec. 3 this year. But for the millions of people in need locally and globally, access to medical care, housing, food and water aren't only problems once or twice a year. Poverty doesn't take a day off. We needs more funders. We need more people to give and we need existing philanthropists to stretch their wallets a little bit more. All of us can do better by giving actively, as much as we can, and not just when we're prompted to by a major tragedy or a date on the calendar. There's also another half to this equation: We need the doers -- aid organizations, foundations, activists and volunteers -- to show that they are worthy stewards of public money. Nonprofits, including my own
, must strive to be transparent, responsive and flexible. Donors are reasonable: They just want to know that we are doing our best in amplifying, accelerating, measuring and sharing their positive impact. And we should be proactive in sharing failures as well as successes. Of course, striking this balance between funders and doers is especially critical during disasters and the holiday season, when funders are naturally inspired to give. As doers, our job is not simply to collect more donations, but rather to partner with funders to give them a meaningful giving experience. Here are three ways that doers can demonstrate willingness to partner with funders:
  1. Be responsive to news and trends. For this holiday season, the Jolkona team had spent months planning our biggest matching campaign ever: a major fundraising drive for 20 Seattle-based organizations working in the developing world, kicked off with the #GivingTuesday Seattle party on Dec. 3. But when the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan, known as Typhoon Yolanda in Southeast Asia, became clear, we began to talk about pivoting our campaign in favor of Standing With the Philippines.

  • Listen to your funders. Within hours of the typhoon, we started hearing from our donors about whether we would be able to give them options to fund aid to the Philippines. After a few days, despite the well-publicized solicitations for donations through major international charities, the queries kept coming. By listening, we were able to respond to our donors and begin reworking our holiday campaign, in light of their strong affinity for Southeast Asia and disaster relief.
  • Be flexible with your doers. Not only did we decide to postpone Jolkona's original matching campaign until Spring 2014, but we have also relaxed our organization's usual practice of requiring nonprofit partners to provide proof of impact for each and every donation. In a major disaster scenario, we don't think it's reasonable to withhold funds until assurances can be made that a partner will be able to procure a unique photo or video for each donor. Our Standing With the Philippines partners will instead give periodic updates from the ground, and based on our previous disaster relief campaigns, we know that our donors are willing to make this compromise.
  • These steps are not specific to just disasters or
    ; I believe they are applicable all year long. As the holiday season gets underway, this time of year should serve as a sobering reminder of the millions of people who are less fortunate. As funders, let's open our hearts and wallets to support the doers working to help people who are suffering in Philippines, the developing world and our own backyards. As doers, let's renew our pledge to engage funders so that they are motivated to give even more. Together, let's do great things this giving season -- and let's carry that momentum into 2014!

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