Best Partnership Award - Finalist, Grainger and American Red Cross

Grainger and American Red Cross

Grainger is committed to building capacity for communities to prepare for and respond to disasters. Strong relationships and the right resources are critical to building effective disaster response. The American Red Cross urgently needed specially trained volunteers who, on short notice, could mobilize to fill specific needs. In 2001, Grainger joined with the American Red Cross in Chicago to create a new corporate volunteer program called Ready When the Time Comes.

Six years ago the unprecedented events of Hurricane Katrina brought to light the challenges communities face in times of disaster and the unique opportunity businesses have to help. In 2005, Grainger donated $1 million to the American Red Cross as National Founding Sponsor of Ready When the Time Comes and committed to partnering with businesses across the country to build a corporate army of volunteers. A key lesson the Red Cross learned from Katrina is that no organization, no matter how strong, can go it alone.

Today, 10 years later, 13,000 volunteers stronger and $10 million invested in cash, product and volunteer resources, Grainger and the Red Cross have created a transformational partnership model for businesses to align resources and make an impact. Ready When the Time Comes is a proven success that is good for businesses, good for the Red Cross, and good for communities because it trains volunteers who can respond immediately in times of disaster.

Disasters can strike at a moment’s notice. Ready When the Time Comes has an immediate impact in times of disaster through the rapid deployment of trained volunteers. Since its inception, Ready When the Time Comes volunteers have been deployed more than 50 times following hurricanes, floods, wildfires, heat waves and ice storms.

One of the best examples of the impact of this program is the response to the series of deadly disasters this spring. Ready When the Time Comes volunteers responded to tornadoes and floods in Alabama, Missouri, North Carolina, North and South Dakota, Oklahoma and Tennessee, assisting the Red Cross with call center support, shelter operations, disaster assessment and mass feeding. And the impact of these local deployments on the volunteers is significant. “It will change your life. It will change the way you see other people; it will knock down barriers. It will change the way you perceive people just from helping one time,” said Andriana Allen, a Grainger team member.

Grainger volunteers are always at front of the line to volunteer. Longer-term, Ready When the Time Comes plays an important role in building public-private partnerships aimed to enhance community resiliency. With more than 460 companies and organizations involved across the country, Ready When the Time Comes has become a national model for corporate volunteerism, training more than 13,000 employee volunteers in disaster response. Through this program, the business community has helped increase the Red Cross volunteer response capacity nearly 40% in just six years.

Each local Grainger branch plays an important role in the Ready When the Time Comes program and the mission of the Red Cross. Being a catalyst to inspire other local partnerships has created the momentum and success for the program. No matter how big or small there is role for businesses to play in protecting their community. “Better prepared communities will create a better prepared nation. The passion to help is there; we just have to make sure we harness it properly. Putting the time, money and training in now -- together -- will save many more lives in the future,” stated Gail McGovern, President and CEO of the American Red Cross.

The Business Case

The Chamber BCLC believes the best examples of business-nonprofit partnerships have true benefit to the company, as well as the cause or community the company serves. In the wake of a disaster, residents do not return to their communities until local businesses open up again, and local businesses cannot reopen unless they have employees and customers back in the area. Some businesses never reopen after a disaster.

Grainger has core strengths in logistics and supply chain and proudly fills a niche that is vital to keeping businesses up and running. Ready When the Time Comes is a natural extension of its business capabilities. “During and after disasters, our customers count on us for batteries, flashlights, generators, safety equipment and more. Neighbors also count on us for compassionate support that our volunteers generously provide,” explains James T. Ryan, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Grainger.

More than 460 customers, companies and organizations – from Fortune 500 companies to small businesses – have become part of Ready When the Time Comes in 52 markets from Alaska to Puerto Rico. Ready When the Time Comes is a program that meets the critical needs of the local Red Cross while at the same time offering businesses an outlet for their employees to make a difference. Many companies have launched the program in multiple markets, engaging employee volunteers across the country.