As communities around the world continue to recover from major natural disasters from the tsunami in Japan to the hurricanes in the US, citizens look to companies—not just governments or aid organizations—to provide critical relief assistance. The 2013 Cone Communications Disaster Relief Trend Tracker finds that nearly nine-in-10 (87 percent) global consumers believe companies must play a role in natural disaster response—in part because the majority (69 percent) thinks corporations are better able to effectively respond.
Surveying more than 10,000 citizens in 10 countries, including the United States, Canada, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia, China, India and Japan, the survey reveals a near-universal demand for meaningful corporate aid beyond providing funds: 89 percent of global citizens think companies should leverage their unique assets to lend support to affected communities (such as mobile response units, in-kind donations and employee volunteers), and 87 percent wants companies to play a long-term role in relief efforts, not just immediate recovery.
“It can’t be a case of ‘if’ companies contribute to natural disaster recovery efforts; it must be a question of ‘how,’” says Craig Bida, executive vice president, social impact, at Cone. “Regardless of geography, citizens are looking to companies—even more so than government agencies—to create and implement real, on-the-ground solutions to acute and urgent needs. Consumers in communities have been burned by slow reaction times or inadequate resources in past relief efforts. What our research has documented is a citizen call for help that corporations simply cannot ignore.”
Consumers stand ready to work alongside companies toward relief efforts and promise to reward those caring companies with a strong brand halo. More than half (54 percent) of global citizens say they have already joined corporate disaster relief efforts, while nine-in-10 global citizens have a more favorable impression of a company after learning that it supports disaster recovery.
Corporate participation in disaster relief efforts is particularly critical in China, one of the most disaster-plagued areas in the world. Citizens there express a near-unanimous desire for company involvement in relief efforts (96 percent vs. 87 percent global average). They are also exceptionally primed for participation efforts, with more than three-quarters reporting they have already contributed to corporate disaster relief activities (78 percent vs. 54 percent global average).
Similarly, citizens in both India and Japan are still recovering from recent natural disasters, such as flooding in the North Indian state of Uttarakhand and the massive Fukushima earthquake in Japan. Citizens in these countries were significantly more likely to perceive companies as better equipped than government to respond to disasters (85 percent and 80 percent, respectively, vs. 69 percent global average).
“As natural disasters seem to increase in intensity and frequency, company involvement in relief and recovery becomes even more crucial,” Bida says. “But companies must think strategically about how to leverage their resources for the greatest impact through taking stock of resources and vetting potential partners. When lives are at stake, every dollar counts.”
Cone offers the following five tips to best support efforts:
1. Look beyond the check: Although cash donations can give disaster nonprofits a much needed monetary injection to meet urgent needs, the most effective relief efforts don’t always come in the form of dollar contributions. Companies that leverage unique assets – such as products, technology or networks – can often make significant impact when it comes to recovery and restoration efforts. Companies can also work to secure an enduring NGO partnership to ensure relief supplies can be quickly delivered across the globe.
2. Do your due diligence: In the age of crowdsourced donations and online giving, it’s even more vital to choose nonprofit partners wisely. When initially selecting a partner, make sure the nonprofit can also make a long-term commitment to relief and rebuilding efforts and that the organization is prepared to report and communicate on the progress and impact of programs.
3. Engage your stakeholders: Company stakeholders, including employees and consumers, often want to take part in corporate relief efforts. Companies should not only provide channels for stakeholders to donate to relief efforts, but also make short- and long-term volunteer and giving opportunities available as appropriate.
4. Communicate efforts externally and appropriately – and don’t forget about social: No company wants to appear exploitative during a disaster. At the same time, companies that fail to communicate may be criticized for neglecting to contribute. To ensure transparency, companies should issue brief, facts-only news releases and leverage social media as a way to disperse critical fundraising and relief information during disasters.
5. Don’t give and run: Just because a disaster is no longer in the headlines, doesn’t mean recovery is over. Although immediate relief needs are real and pressing, long-term rebuilding is a critical component of disaster efforts. Companies should be prepared to be involved for the long-haul, offering essential support for reconstruction.