When a natural disaster hits, it can be difficult for nonprofits to find a balance in their giving because the need is everywhere—from infrastructure to food, shelter, and healthcare. No one need is more important than the other. People in disaster zones must have food and shelter, but they also require roads and telecommunication capabilities.
Plenty of funders assuage that difficulty by deciding where they are going to direct their money and in-kind donations, if and when, a natural disaster strikes. The Citi Foundation for example, tends to direct its funds toward rebuilding efforts, while the Rockefeller Foundation focuses on helping communities build resilience to disasters.
And this approach makes complete sense because it serves as a blueprint as to how much of their resources they are going to dedicate and for which efforts those funds will be deployed. The ELMA Relief Foundation takes much of the same approach, but unlike outfits like Rock and Citi, its disaster related giving is more of the full-circle variety. Beginning following the Sphere Standards in humanitarian and disaster response.
The Sphere Standards are a result of the Sphere Project, a voluntary initiative established in the late-1990s “to improve the quality of humanitarian assistance and the accountability of humanitarian actors to their constituents, donors, and affected populations.” The project is comprised of 15 to 20 NGOs working in conjunction with the American Red Cross and UN Agencies. The Sphere Core Standards were introduced in 2014, and represent an attempt to sort of standardize humanitarian assistance in a manner in which the people affected by disaster, shock, or crisis are always at the center of humanitarian aid and action. And this is where ELMA’s three-pronged approach to disaster grantmaking begins.
Overall, ELMA focuses its disaster related efforts on addressing the most urgent needs of low income and vulnerable communities, especially children. The foundation begins its response efforts by acting before a disaster strikes whenever possible so that groups can respond quickly and efficiently once it hits. An important point of the foundation’s work is to launch coordinated and appropriate response campaigns. This makes sense in any disaster response campaign and speaks directly to ELMAs goals of decreasing child mortality rates, malnutrition rates, and negative coping strategies of disaster-affected households.
The foundation’s main objectives in its disaster response work are to not only “preserve life, health, and other assets during and after disasters and shocks,” but also to help ensure the continuity of education for children and other protective services for those living in regions affected by disasters.
Here’s an interesting facet of ELMAs response work: it also supports improvements in making disaster logistics systems more efficient.
Once the immediate needs of disaster affected communities have been met, the foundation launches its recovery work. It should be noted that these efforts aren’t limited to current natural catastrophes or shocks. ELMA also supports regions of the world, such as Haiti, for example, that still needs help rebuilding years after a disaster has struck. The main objective of this work is to help communities return to the way they were pre-disasters. Examples of supported activities include repairing and rehabilitating infrastructure by helping provide the supplies, building materials, and human resources necessary to do so.
The third prong to ELMA’s balanced grantmaking in this space is risk reduction. This approach aims to help improve and strengthen disaster preparedness and resilience in “underserved low income communities affected by predictable disasters.” Here, the foundation’s strategies include developing and expanding early warning and surveillance systems as well as increasing the reach of those systems in a cost effective and sustainable manner.
The ELMA Relief Foundation’s disaster related grants can be rather substantial, at times ranging from $500,000 to $1 million—which the International Medical Corps and Oxfam have received in the past. It’s also worth mentioning there that many of ELMAs related grants have had a healthcare bent. For example, disaster response grants have gone to Save the Children for its newborn health in humanitarian settings efforts in South Sudan and Doctors Without Borders, UK, for its rapid response work addressing the medical needs of those “facing complex crises and emergencies.” As well, recovery grants have been awarded to Médecins du Monde and Last Mile Health to help rebuild post-Ebola healthcare systems and services in Liberia.
While health and healthcare seems to be a bit of a giving pattern for ELMA in the disaster response and relief space, this is a balanced funder that also support projects related to the establishment of emergency systems in order to rapidly deploy resources in emerging humanitarian crises and risk management programs to help improve disaster resilience for smallholder farmers.
On a final note, the ELMA Relief Foundation will respond to disasters anywhere in the world in which they occur. However, it does have a particular affinity for backing projects in Africa, which has no shortage of humanitarian crises and complex emergencies.