As we watched geopolitical situations, public health emergencies and natural disasters unfold, we felt compelled to reach out to experts in crisis giving and hosted a roundtable discussion where they could share their insights. Joining us were Zack Rosenburg, co-founder of SBP, a social impact organization focused on disaster resilience and recovery; William McNulty, head of mission at Operation White Stork, a humanitarian organization on the frontlines in Ukraine, and co-founder of Team Rubicon, a nonprofit that utilizes the skills and experiences of military veterans and first responders to deploy emergency response teams rapidly; and Jeffrey Haskell, our chief legal officer.
We learned that each crisis comes with its own set of complexities that can make it challenging for philanthropists to determine the best way to provide support, especially when they need to act fast. The goal was to examine how donors can maximize impact and take a strategic approach to giving in times of crisis. Here are four key takeaways from the panel.
#1: Recognize That Disaster is Different
There are two things to consider when responding to a crisis: addressing the emergency and supporting the long-term recovery of a region and its people. In the immediate aftermath of an event, it’s important for funders to be flexible in their vetting process when it comes to finding the organizations that are best equipped to deliver relief. Looking at a newer organization’s leadership, relevant experience, their mission and plan to achieve their goals may all be good indicators of future success.
#2: Consider Individual Grants
Did you know philanthropists with private foundations can grant directly to individuals? Rather than relying on a charity to make the determination, the foundation has more control over who gets the grant. Plus, it allows the money to make an immediate difference for a person or family who needs it. And unlike some individual grants that require advance approval from the IRS, disaster relief and hardship assistance do not require this. In these cases, the IRS requires philanthropists to choose grant recipients from an open-ended group of individuals after an assessment of their need.
One other important consideration—the IRS rules change when it comes to providing longer-term assistance. While there’s no bright-line rule delineating the difference, the typical view is that short-term assistance means providing enough to enable the recipient to take care of their basic needs for at least four to six weeks. For longer-term assistance, the foundation would have to conduct a financial need assessment for dispersing aid to show that recipients are unable to provide for their basic needs. Keep in mind that for both short- and long-term assistance, larger grants require more due diligence on the part of the foundation.
Want to See the Rest of the List?
Download our complete resource, 4 Key Takeaways: Strategic Giving In Times of Crisis. As a bonus, checkout our panelist Q&A.
Looking for Advisor Tips to Share with Your Clients?
Checkout our article featured on Barron’s, Advisors Need to Prepare Clients for Extreme Weather Events.
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Foundation Source does not give tax, legal, or investment advice. You should consult with your attorney, tax advisor, and/or financial advisor regarding your specific situation.