Helping Ukraine: how charity customers can help
The humanitarian crisis in Ukraine is heartbreaking and complex. In many ways, this looks like a natural disaster, but it also poses distinct challenges that require immediate and long-term support.
Philanthropists, especially those with private foundations (PFs), are able to help in more agile and flexible ways than others. Not only can they react quickly when a crisis arises, but they can also take a longer-term view to understand the full scope of the problem(s), identify where they can have the greatest impact, and determine how to allocate their resources. most effectively to stimulate relief efforts and/or generate new ones.
Here are some tips for your charity clients to support Ukraine now and in the difficult years to come.
Provide immediate help
As the circumstances in Ukraine are fluid and likely to worsen in both magnitude and urgency, the exact degree of support required is unknown. Here are the main types of humanitarian aid that are often delivered to populations in urgent need:
- Health and medical support
- Shelter, water, food, sanitation, hygiene and other essentials
- Clothing and non-food items
- Urgent support for displaced and refugee populations
- Protection of people in conflict zones
- Special services for the elderly, disabled, sick, poor and other vulnerable populations
- Replace suspended education and income
Cash donations are repeatedly cited as the most effective way for donors and FPs to provide such support, as they allow charities maximum flexibility to direct funds to areas that need it most. (Donating items such as clothing and medical supplies requires shipping, receiving, and managing goods and materials, and can hamper response efforts.)
FPs can also provide funding through a unique capability authorized by the Internal Revenue Service in an emergency: rather than following the usual procedure for awarding grants to charities, they can award them directly to individuals and to families in need without obtaining prior approval from the IRS.
A list of nonprofit organizations supporting relief efforts in Ukraine is easy to find online. Before customers support a charity for any cause, advise them to ask:
- Is the organization well established and reputable? What is his story ?
- Does it have a clear mission?
- Does it meet a vital need?
- How sound is its stated approach?
- Are his values consistent with mine?
- Are its services and programs unique?
- Who sits on its board of directors?
- Does it get substantial results? What does he say about them?
Additionally, ask customers to check the organization’s rating from one or more “monitoring” sites. These resources apply a uniform set of standards to analyze and assess the financial and programmatic quality of nonprofit organizations. Some of the better known sites include give well, Charity Navigator, Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance and The American Institute of Philanthropy.
Providing Long-Term Support: The Life Cycle of a Disaster
The response to crises and disasters takes place in several stages. By distributing funds and support throughout the ‘disaster lifecycle’, your clients may be able to achieve greater impact with their resources and reduce the likelihood of recurrence while aligning their response with their values and setting priorities.
The Center for Disaster Philanthropy cites the following four steps to respond to critical situations:
- Response and relief. The reaction time during or immediately after an emergency. Often with a focus on saving lives, preventing further harm and providing basic human services. This step typically attracts the most media attention and the most funding.
- Reconstruction and recovery. The strategic post-damage period was assessed, including longer-term efforts to restore a community or country to a pre-disaster state. This work usually begins after the event no longer dominates the news cycle and is often more expensive than relief. It is also often overlooked and underfunded by public charities, private philanthropists and insurance companies.
- Preperation. Another strategic phase, involving detailed plans that will help people and areas respond effectively to disasters or crises. Activities may include planning exercises, training and educating volunteers, identifying escape routes and partners, and storing food, water, and other basic necessities.
- Mitigation. More strategic work designed to address factors leading to or contributing to emergencies and limit the impact of similar events in the future. This step requires risk analysis and an investment of time and resources to build resilience and reduce risk. Activities may include strengthening existing infrastructure and developing redundant processes.
Designing a response to the crisis
To determine the best way to respond to a disaster or crisis, advise your clients to:
- Understand their motivation. What about the crisis that speaks to them? Is there a stage in the disaster lifecycle that would greatly benefit their personal network or professional strengths? There are many ways to connect a client’s philanthropic mission to the needs that arise in emergency situations.
- Do their research. This includes keeping up to date with current events as well as looking to past disasters and similar situations for advice and lessons that can help them build a high-impact response.
- Beware of scams. Many new nonprofits are created in response to disasters, and while some are legitimate, others are unfortunately not. Evaluate new organizations carefully before committing.
- Consider equity. Disasters and crises can amplify inequalities. There may be marginalized, vulnerable or under-resourced populations who will feel the crisis more acutely and may have difficulty accessing essential services.
- Partner with other funders. Exchange ideas and best practices with other philanthropists. In the process, they can find collaborators with similar or complementary goals that will allow them to develop a more innovative or global response.
During this critical time for Ukraine, as well as during other crises, encourage your charitable customers to address immediate and long-term needs when providing support.
Gillian Howell is Head of Client Advisory Solutions for Foundation Sourcewhich provides comprehensive support services to private foundations. The firm works in partnership with financial and legal advisers as well as directly with individuals and families.