Galvanizing Your Organization to Help in a Disaster

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Sxswcares

There are times when a cause campaign is not about mutual reward for brand and beneficiary, rather responsible citizenship. Disasters are such times. There’s no greater example of this than the current triple crisis of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster in Japan. Using online tools, it’s easy to participate in charitable activities, and help situations like the Japanese crisis.

When your cause or company’s employees and stakeholders want to act and participate on the frontlines of the relief effort, there are several things you can do. Whether it’s leveraging your online community, offering financial resources or volunteering, almost every person and organization has assets to offer.

Before going too far, please ensure that the organization is motivated by a clear desire to resolve or provide relief to a devastating event. If your goal is to market or strengthen the social responsibility factor of your brand, the disaster campaign could easily achieve the opposite and tarnish your brand with an opportunistic hue (consider Spirit Airlines oil spill faux paux). Disasters are a time for social responsibility and altruism.

When the Deep Horizon oil spill occurred and companies began stepping up their response, Dawn dish soap stood out. Dawn soap products were donated as a means to clean birds, and the effort was well received publicly. The company simply publicized it was donating the products. Further Dawn’s bird cleaning ads can be considered in good taste because they had been deployed prior to the oil spill accident. In fact, because life matched brand promise, the ads were strengthened.

Here are some tips if you are considering participating in disaster relief…

Spur of the Moment

Crowdrisejapan

If an event happens such as the Japanese earthquake that’s so compelling it inspires you to act, the best thing to do is to affiliate with an entity that is well prepared. For example, the America Red Cross literally exists for crisis situations and its business is preparedness. If you prefer a less organized effort, consider Crisis Commons and the fantastic job they do getting coders and other techies to help out in crisis like the Sendai earthquake.

The point is that there are dozens, even hundreds of causes and organizations that prepare for such events. Rather than reinventing the wheel on the fly, find and support them in the ways that they suggest.

Many of the more experienced players have grassroots systems for you to participate in and fundraise. Further, independent fundraising platforms like Crowdrise, Razoo, Causes and Jumo allow you to set up your own social fundraising campaign autonomous of a charity’s oversight.

One of the most powerful testimonial effects of the #SxSWCares effort last weekend was its use of grassroots word of mouth power to support Japan. But it did so as an independent fundraiser for the American Red Cross. Similarly, when Google founder Eric Schmidt wanted to donate $100,000 in matching funds to Japan, he sought experienced nonprofit Citizen Effect. Lady Gaga also decided to support the Schmidt/Citizen Effect effort.

Prepare for Unfortunate Events

GoogleCrisisResponse

One of the best things a communicator can do is create a crisis communications plan for missteps and disasters. Similarly, preparation to help in advance of disaster situations makes sense. This allows the organization to literally pull a book off the shelf and follow directions or adapt them to unique situations. Network for Good was able to send attendees to SxSW AND prepare its network for recovery efforts thanks to prior planning for crisis events. As of last evening, Network for Good had raised $4.3 million for its group of earthquake causes.

With a pre-determined crisis plan, you can deploy resources in a manner that better plays to your strengths. Further, the nonprofit or company can save funds and allocate other resources for that unfortunate day in advance, ensuring impact.

For example, Google has a crisis preparedness team for disasters. The team has been actively engaged in the Japan crisis since the earthquake, using tools like Person Finder, Checkout for direct donations the Japanese Red Cross, maps via Google Earth, and news aggregation. Google’s impact is significant and helpful, using its tools and networks to ease the situation as best as it can.

The questions you have to ask is how the organization can best assist in a time of need and how much is it willing to give. From there building a plan becomes easier.

Free Agent Experimentation

Taylor Anderson

Many organizations and people feel like they can do more than the current authorities and causes involved. Or they feel inspired to use tools in an unthought of way. Whether it’s an independent fundraiser or a new tool, this is the heart of innovation. If innovation can possibly make a difference it only makes sense to engage.

Two recent examples, include Kira Siddall deploying widespread Twitter networks to find Taylor Anderson in Japan, and the MIT Media Lab’s use of hot air balloons to document the oil spill. Further, technological innovation can seed breakthrough applications, including unique Uhsahidi map deployments, Google People Finder, and several tools developed by Crisis Commons. In times of crisis, inspiration can save lives and make a big impact.

#citizengulf Events Open Amidst Another Oil Spill Controversy

Today we opened the first #citizengulf city events for registration on the Citizen Gulf site. Citizen Effect‘s national day of citizen action seeks to help fishing families in need by providing an education for their children, in the hopes that they may be able to pursue new careers in the wake of the oil spill’s long term impact.

And as we launch, a raging controversy brews about the latest spin from BP and Obama – claims that the oil spill’s impact is disappearing. Fishing families and other members of the Gulf economy still struggle to survive. As the above video from a Grand Isle City Hall meeting last week, shows even with BP’s financial aid, the oil spill survivors are suffering and cannot pay their bills.

Meanwhile, though fishing waters may be opening again, oil and dispersant traces have been found in blue shell crab larvae, entering the food chain. Further, as satellite imagery of the Gulf waters show there’s a malignant brown stain to the oil spill water still. Many believe this is from a combined tarry mixture of over-deployed dispersants and oil, sunk below the surface.

The fishing families of Louisiana and the Gulf beyond still need our help. It’s clear that BP and Obama will shirk this responsibility at the first opportunity. Meanwhile fishing families are left to pursue their profession of generations in diminished, or worse, permanently tainted waters.

Andy Gibson’s story is the classic example (on Friends of the Fishermen’s charity site). A fourth generation fisherman who found his waters closed to shrimping and the market for his goods bottomed out, Gibson simply went further out to the fertile fishing grounds of western Louisiana and Texas, untouched by the oil spill. Gibson is “determined he will figure out a way to make it through.”

Many fishing families will continue to choose this life style in the face of adversity. But their children can have an option. Working with Catholic Charities of New Orleans — an organization working directly with fishing families everyday in eight parishes — we can provide an opportunity for kids to have a better education and the choice for a different career path.

Join the #citizengulf effort today to make a difference. Host or attend an event on august 25, donate or vote in the Pepsi Refresh contest.

August 25 – CitizenGulf’s National Day of Action

Join us tonight at 6:30 for details on the #citizengulf project and help fishing families – via U-Stream http://cot.ag/cQxRLw

Fishing Families Wait for Aid

Mark your calendars! Citizen Effect’s CitizenGulf project will become a National Day of Action on August 25th, in alignment with the week of the fifth anniversary of Katrina. The benefit — to be promoted by Gulf Coast Benefit — seeks to help fishing families find a new, more sustainable future by providing education resources for their children.

You Can Help Many

Catholic Charities of New Orleans is the beneficiary of all CitizenGulf National Day of Action donations. Citizen Effect will send 100% of donations, less credit card fees, directly to Catholic Charities to support education programs for fishing families

There are three things citizens like you can do to help:

1) Attend or host your local event

2) Donate

3) Support Gulf Coast Benefit’s Pepsi Refresh project.

Donations can be given directly through the main CitizenGulf project page.

A Day of Action Means Jazz, Blues, Zydeco, and More

World of Coca Cola Party

Events will be meet-ups at places that can accommodate the following: People, hurricanes, New Orleans themed music (i.e. jazz, blues, zydeco) and a local green or environmental expert who can say a few things about the oil spill’s impact on the marine environment and the Gulf Coast economies associated with it. Registration will be $10.

Social Media Club has signed on as a CitizenGulf project partner and will help Gulf Coast Benefit promote the CitizenGulf events. Cities that have already signed on to host events include Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York and Washington, DC. A full list of cities and details on how to register and participate will be available on the Gulf Coast Benefit web site no later than August 1.

We Are Actively Seeking Event Hosts, Sponsors and Attendees.

We are actively seeking hosts and sponsors to lead official events in many cities, organize Social Media Club local events and host unofficial awareness meetings. Email us at for more details.

Gulf Coast Benefit’s Pepsi Refresh project will be our third action, and will be open for voting on August 2 (stay tuned for updates). The week of the national day of action, Citizen Effect will also offer CitizenGulf opportunities for individuals to engage in their own citizen grassroots projects throughout the fall to benefit fishing families; education, healthcare, food, etc.

In addition to Zoetica’s support, additional promotion partners for the national day of action include Andy Sternberg, El Studio, Live Your Talk, Sloane Berrent, and Taylor Davidson. Thank you so much for everything you and our caring supporters have done to support CitizenGulf. The project is now yours!

Best #citizengulf Photos & What’s Coming Next

Above find a slideshow of my favorite photos from our Citizen Effect Gulf Mission trip. The slideshow really tells the story of what we saw. Quite a crushing blow has been dealt to the Gulf marine environment and the communities built around it.

The fact-finding trip, representing the listening phase of our effort, is complete. You can find links to all of the content — from CNN iReports, photos and podcasts to Mashable, Live Earth and other blog posts — aggregated on the Citizen Effect Gulf Mission project page. We will likely write an executive summary over the next week.

Next steps will be a public gathering here in Washington, DC the week of July 12. Time and location to be determined, but we will U-Stream it. At that time, the Citizen Effect team will review our findings (find my initial conclusions here), take questions, and announce our program of action, which will likely be a Day of Citizen Action.

The entire purpose of the trip was to assess the situation first hand, and then create a way for Americans across the country who want to find mindful ways to help. This Day of Citizen Action will be the start of the program, and will provide several ways, from a simple Facebook Like to full on grassroots activism, for people to act. Stay tuned.

Gulf Photo Essays – Oil Angels & Signs of Grand Isle

Here are my first two CNN iReport photo essays from the Citizen Effect Gulf Mission to help Gulf Fishermen. The first is Oil Angels, featuring the faces of the fishing families and nonprofits trying to serve them…

The second photo essay is Signs of Grand Isle, featuring protest signs showing the damage the oil spill has caused, including protests from local citizens.

Enjoy! And keep following us at the Citizen Effect Gulf Mission program page.

The Plight of the Louisiana Fishing Family

Dream Is Gone

The Citizen Effect Gulf Mission team sat down yesterday with Natalie A. Jayroe, president and CEO of the Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans (serving 23 south Louisiana parishes). Our ongoing goal remains finding an actionable way for Americans to take positive mindful ways to act in the wake of the Deep Horizon disaster.

Jayroe told us her view of how the fishing families of Louisiana have been affected by the oil spill. The following post is based from that conversation.

An area the size of Great Britain was devastated with Katrina. The entire region had to rebuild, and nonprofits and community realigned themselves to rethink New Orleans. Five years after Katrina they are seeing another devastating disaster, and, it’s been very tough on many fishing families. in once case, a fisher committed suicide.

There is nothing finite right now on how to handle the post oil spill economy. One step forward has yet to be determined. There are 49,000 Louisianans that have fishing licenses, and in all 150,000 people are affected immediately. The oil drilling moratorium has put another 40,000 people out of work.

The secondary and tertiary circles of job loss have yet to be felt in the Gulf. The ripple effect could be huge. The local economy is tourism and oil, so both of the big economic drivers of the state have been challenged.

Fishing is an up and down business. The fishing families of Louisiana are traditional and self sufficient, and do not gladly take government benefits. Fishing families take advantage of federal benefits at a rate 10-20% lower than the rest of the state. They don’t accept help readily. They don’t like case work. They just want to go back to work.

How The Hell Are We Supposed Feed Our Kids Now

Five or six generations of fishing families live by the tides. When this is taken away from them, there is little chance to take on a new career.

Their next job opportunity is often oil rigs. So they are less likely to take swipes at BP, it’s a huge part of their economy.

The fishing families think about how they are going to get through this today and tomorrow. Most of them are still trying to keep the oil off the shores. They liken it to fighting a war, and hope they will be able to shrimp next year. If there’s a way to survive they will do it. They are about subsistence and survival, and they will what they have to live with the land.

To create that next generation of sustenance income would require the community to take on a lot of education work. You would need to do a lot of front line activity with the community to evolve. They would need to band together. Given the fiercely independent culture of the fishing families here, it’s a dubious outcome…

The environmental impact from the oil spill will likely be felt for decades, stifling the marine life and fishing industry. The BP Deep Horizon oil spill may have permanently devastated this fishing culture.

Long Term Impact for Second Harvest

Second Harvest knows this issue will continue a long time after the oil spill is capped. It could take years. The organization estimates that more than 47,500 fishing homes may eventually require food assistance as a result of the Gulf oil spill.

Because it’s not a national disaster declared by the President, federal food commodities (via disaster SNAP) can’t be given out.Fact Check: Louisiana Department of Social Services. If Obama declares the oil spill a National Disaster, BP would no longer be liable. The bailout fund is not necessarily going to benefit the Gulf directly. That means disaster resources are not making it to the Louisiana parishes today.

The organization has already provided 200,000 meals through disaster relief sites in the impacted areas since May 1. The demand is making a direct impact on Second Harvest’s stores before hurricane season, stretching their resources. BP has paid the organization $350,000 to replace these recources.

Second Harvest Food bank became the largest foodbank in history following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The foodbank distributed 8 million pounds of food in September 2005 alone.

Geoff Livingston is a regular contributor to the Live Earth blog.