There are some things you are glad to have, but hope never to have to use: A quarter for the phone booth (I know, I know – 20th century stuff). A snake for your drain. An epi pen. The capacity to respond quickly and effectively to an emergency is certainly close to – if not right at the top – of that list.
The recent North Bay fires presented our region with a nearly worst-case disaster: wind-swept and fueled by drought-parched terrain, the fires spread in a matter of hours, gathering speed and overwhelming community after community in the days that ensued. Ultimately, 43 people lost their lives and 8,900 structures were destroyed before the flames were brought under control.
It will be months before we fully grasp all that has been lost. And it will take highest-order resources and a concerted, coordinated effort by leaders and community members to recover and rebuild in the coming weeks, months, and years.
The people living in the communities affected by the fires and the organizations making life better are rallying and supporting one another in extraordinary ways.
Funders, too, are part of these communities. To contribute well in the immediacy of disaster they need guidance on sorting through tools, best practices, models, and relationships. Funders outside the region have also stepped up and are seeking information to make sure their support reaches the people who need it most, in the ways they most need it.
We as a sector need “standing capacity” to respond effectively and together when the unthinkable happens. As we have seen all too painfully, disaster can strike anyone, at any time. We all have a stake in getting it right.
Over the past year, we’ve steadily strengthened our know-how and readiness for a robust, coordinated philanthropic response to disaster in our region. Launched in the fall of 2016, NCG’s Disaster Resilience, Relief, and Recovery program focuses on five key elements:
- FUNDER ENGAGEMENT: A community of funders ready for disaster
- PHILANTHROPIC READINESS: Plans and processes for members’ responses
- REGIONAL INFRASTRUCTURE: A regional plan for philanthropic action, coordination, and collaboration
- NONPROFIT RESILIENCE: Nimble nonprofits that can support their community to recover better than before
- DISASTER LEADERSHIP: Access to trusted funds and quick know-how for members
We are learning what is working well, what is not as helpful as we had envisioned, and what we still want to build and refine. We will carry what we’ve learned into the recovery and rebuilding efforts, and to strengthen and improve our readiness for the next event that calls us into service. While we hope that day will never come, we are grateful to be able to respond as we have, and confident in our ability to rise to challenges like these together.
All of us at NCG send prayers and strength to everyone who has suffered loss and harm in the fires. We are with you.