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New Disaster Philanthropy Playbook Highlights Collective Power of Regional Associations

Thursday, January 14, 2016
A vital new resource is now available to help philanthropy respond to future disasters: the Disaster Philanthropy Playbook. The Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers, which is the largest network serving philanthropy in America, is pleased to have been a partner in helping to create the Playbook, working closely with the two organizations that took a lead role in its development: the Council of New Jersey Grantmakers (CNJG), a Forum member, and the Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP).
As noted in the news release, the Disaster Philanthropy Playbook is a comprehensive resource of best practices and innovative approaches to guide the philanthropic community in responding to future disasters. Designed as a multimedia, interactive website, the Playbook will be an “evergreen” resource. You can access it at
When a disaster strikes, regional associations of grantmakers (RAs) are looked to immediately to play a number of critical roles. They track and share how philanthropy is responding to a disaster, which is particularly critical in the first weeks of a disaster when funders want to know how others are responding so that they can complement, rather than duplicate, what their colleagues are doing. RAs also serve as a vital clearinghouse of information and resources to inform funders and others on how they can help, and as conveners to help their grantmaking members and community partners work together around both the short-term response and the long-term recovery. The Playbook can help RAs, and their philanthropic members, think through and plan ahead for how to respond during a disaster in their region – in a thoughtful, proactive, strategic way, rather than scrambling to figure things out on the fly once a disaster hits.
The Forum is comprised of 33 regional associations of grantmakers, who have formed a highly interactive network for sharing knowledge and resources to support their collective work to advance philanthropy across the country. A clear demonstration of the value of this network came into play three years ago, when Hurricane Sandy struck New Jersey. CNJG President & CEO Nina Stack has spoken about how she received invaluable guidance from CNJG’s Forum colleague in Maryland, the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers, to help her organization respond to the disaster in New Jersey. Now New Jersey has, in turn, provided the Playbook to pay it forward, as it were, in the philanthropy field.
The Playbook is a powerful example of the collective knowledge among the 33 RAs, who have contributed resources, stories and lessons learned to the Playbook. RAs have both a bird’s-eye perspective and on-the-ground experience on philanthropy in their regions, so they are better able than anyone else to identify how philanthropy has responded to past disasters in their regions, what’s worked and not worked to help their regions recover from disasters, which funders in their regions have the most compelling stories to tell, and so on. When you bring together all of that knowledge through a resource like the Playbook, it offers invaluable guidance for the field.
The Playbook is also a prime example of what can happen when you bring together the power of the Forum Network, with our deep, regional roots and broad nationwide reach, with the deep content expertise of a national philanthropy organization like CDP. I hope that the Playbook can serve as a model for addressing other critical issues for philanthropy. 
I’d like to thank Nina Stack and everyone at the Council of New Jersey Grantmakers for playing a tremendous leadership role, both on the regional and national level, on this issue, and Bob Ottenhoff and everyone at the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, for being a great partner of the Forum Network. I’d also like to thank all of the Forum members who contributed to the Playbook, and the funders whose final contributions made the Playbook possible: the Rita Allen Foundation, Johnson & Johnson, Public Service Electric and Gas, the UPS Foundation, the Vermont Community Foundation and the Oklahoma City Community Foundation.
- David Biemesderfer, President & CEO, Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers
Follow me @dbiemesderfer
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