Chambers of Commerce Recovery Expanded Guide

It is crucial for chambers to respond quickly and effectively after a disaster. Immediate action is necessary to highlight private-sector needs, declare the local area open for business, expand partnerships with the public sector and emergency organizations, and continue to represent the voice of businesses in the community recovery effort. Many of these activities should be started before a disaster strikes to establish the chamber as the go-to organization for local businesses. Chambers play an essential role in the private sector’s recovery as well as for the overall community. This Quick Guide will help you respond to a disaster, assist affected businesses, and organize community and business recovery.  For more details, visit   


Lessons Learned from the Chamber Network

  • The Disaster Help Desk at 1-888-MY BIZ HELP (1-888-692-4943) is available to help you and your member businesses. You can also visit
  • While individual and family needs are the immediately priority, move as quickly as possible to get resources for businesses. It may be as simple as providing a list of general contractors and open office supply stores. Show businesses that their recovery is important to the chamber and to the community at large.
  • In a federally declared disaster, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has loan programs to support local businesses with immediate needs.  Be sure to include the SBA details in resources that you provide to your members.
  • Reach out to your members. Communication may be difficult, so make an effort to visit them in person whenever possible. Give them resources and listen to their needs.
  • Track data for weeks, months, or years on each business affected. In past disasters, many chambers have tracked businesses for 18 months or longer. For each business, track the name of the firm; contact information; location; status (destroyed, heavily damaged, light damage, no damage, open or not); new location; date reopened; date moved back to original location if applicable; resources they applied for; losses in dollars; employees pre- and post-storm; log of each time chamber contacted. The goal is to create an annual snapshot from year to year, including issues or opportunities the businesses faced and their recovery process.
  • Encourage businesses to register with the SBA for federal disaster assistance, even if they do not want to apply for an SBA loan. There is no obligation to accept funds. It is better to be registered and have options than to miss the registration deadline altogether.
  • Look for long- and short-term funds to support businesses. If you have a 501(c)(3) foundation as part of the chamber, use it to set up a fund to support small businesses. Promote the fund as a means of maintaining jobs; as many people do not understand the importance of businesses until jobs have been lost. If you do not have a chamber foundation, partner with an economic development group or community foundation.
  • Ask other nearby chambers to commit to helping with the recovery effort. 
  • If you do not know whom to call, contact the Disaster Help Desk at 1-888-MY-BIZ-HELP (1-888-692-4943). 

Organizing and Governance

Following a disaster, various task forces and committees form at the federal, state, and local levels. The most common is the Long-Term Recovery Organization (LTRO) or Committee (LTRC). If an LTRO is not set up, work with local government to create one. How to coordinate among these entities can be daunting, so here are some lessons learned:

  • Recovery typically focuses on individuals, not businesses, and while the Small Business Administration (SBA) provides loans, that is often not enough. Chamber leadership can help.
  • Chambers should work with local government and community partners to ensure that the chamber has a seat on community recovery committees, such as the LTRO.
  • Chambers can play a crucial role in planning for the return of businesses. They can also play a role in reestablishing interconnected support functions like community centers, schools, workforce housing, and transportation routes, which are support mechanisms for getting businesses back up and fully functional. Recovery requires interconnectivity between public, private, nonprofit, and community organizations.
  • Use or establish your chamber’s communications system to collect feedback and to understand your members’ needs. Share this information with your community partners.
  • The LTRO works to address issues in all facets of the community. For example, where temporary housing is located will have a direct impact on employees, especially if the housing is located outside the community. The chamber can raise these types of issues with decision-makers.
  • After extensive public meetings and input, the LTRO will publish its recommendations for recovery. This will become the action plan where funding will be a component, so chamber input is important.
  • Typically, the committee will continue its work with core members for at least a year. We recommend the chamber stay involved to maintain the business voice.
  • Long-Term Disaster Recovery: Best Practices – There is recovery lessons learned summary at beginning, followed by additional detail throughout.
  • New York Rising Community Reconstruction Plan - Staten Island – Detailed recovery plan and activities.
  • Long-Term Community Recovery Toolbox (LTCR) (FEMA) – LTCR toolbox page with a helpful Toolbox, including step-by-step instructions and Excel resource guide.
  • The Disaster Recovery Process – Holistic long-term recovery tips and cautions. Discusses numerous case studies of businesses that have recovered from disasters.
  • Long-Term Recovery Models, Best Practices, and Lessons Learned – A presentation from the National Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD).
  • Community Resilience Techniques – Global case studies of resilience measures and a detailed resilience framework. A helpful starting point guide for beginning a community discussion on recovery, reconstruction, and resilience.
  • NY Rising: Planning to Succeed – A presentation showing what planning committee members can expect as they navigate the recovery process; slides 7-12 are especially helpful.
  • NY Rising Reconstruction Program Overview  –  A description of the recovery plans developed by the NY Rising committee.  
  • When a Disaster Happens: Long Term Recovery – Wisconsin’s long-term recovery community efforts and case study.   
  • NY Rising Sample Economic Development Needs Assessment – A tool for understanding the needs of the business community following disaster.
  • NY Rising Asset Inventory and Costal Risk Assessment tool – Spreadsheet tool which assesses risk of coastal flooding and highlights community planning efforts necessary for handling risk.
  • NY Rising Conference Book – A detailed portfolio of the NY Rising recovery planning committees’ work following Hurricane Sandy. 

After the Joplin tornado, the chamber recovery site utilized the skills of numerous volunteers experienced in professional social media management, marketing, PR, crisis intervention, IT, journalism, copywriting, construction, logistics, and nursing.


Media Strategy

  • After disasters, you will need to work with the media. Develop a media relations plan with three parts: a target audience, a communications objective, and a message to the media.
  • Treat the media as a partner in sharing your information. Build a relationship. The better you know each other, the easier it is to respond to requests in ways that meet everyone’s objectives and ensure that the correct messages reach businesses and the public.
  • Reporters often desire visuals of the disaster situation. Consider what photo-ops may exist or how you can tell the recovery story visually.
  • National and local media may be interested during the first few days or weeks of a disaster, but then will move on to other stories. Even in the early stages, keep a focus on longer-term recovery. Personal stories, compelling visuals, and milestone events will help keep the recovery effort alive. Be creative! Affected businesses need publicity and support following a disaster.
  • Update reporters frequently. Hold press briefings often so that you can reach all reporters at one time with the latest updates. Contact local government’s emergency management or economic development offices to be a part of their press briefings; these are likely to be well attended. The chamber’s presence will remind media outlets and the public of the needs and issues affecting businesses.
  • Use social media to keep everyone updated. Reporters can use your Facebook page or Twitter feed as a source of information. Social media is a 24/7 source of information, especially after a disaster; staffing needs to be responsive to social media inquiries.
  • Use hashtags (e.g., #recovery, #rebuild) to focus attention where it is needed and to keep the conversation going.
  • Post streaming and recorded videos on recovery topics.. Put a face to your disaster to personalize it.
  • The media can help share information about recovery, including the needs, so keep them in the loop.
  • Work with the media to celebrate milestones, especially when companies, services, or areas reopen.

Resources – Media Relations

Social Media Tips

  • Do not set up a disaster recovery site after a disaster if you are not fully prepared to manage it.
  • Vet your social media administrators to ensure that everyone is working toward common goals and using common messaging.  Monitor to make sure that key information is reposted to the top of the page and not getting lost amidst other information.
  • Verify that all information you post is useful. Ensure that any internet links and phone numbers discussed will work correctly.
  • Include who, what, when, where, how, and why in your posts.
  • Respond to any issues immediately and professionally.
  • Emotions can run high after a disaster. Avoid posting negative comments about other organizations or political officials.
  • Hold Twitter-based town halls to engage the public on recovery topics.
  • Use quick response (QR) codes so people can be more quickly directed to a particular website.

Resources – Social Media

Communications - General

  • FCC/FEMA Tips for Communicating During an Emergency – Eleven helpful tips related to gathering information and communicating with others after a disaster, especially when electricity has been lost.
  • Get Tech Ready – Similar list to the FCC resource above, but includes a link to the Red Cross Safe and Well site for people to communicate where/how they are after a disaster – a great people finder.

Communications Strategy/Plan


Fundraising Approach

  • Tips and tactics for raising money to keep the chamber afloat during a difficult time.
  • After a disaster, act quickly by launching a campaign to get assistance.
  • Know how your Chamber can fundraise and disperse funds.
  • Use a variety of fundraising methods to reach different people with convenient options, including text-to-give, online giving, writing a check, and giving kiosks.
  • Set realistic timelines for both raising and using funds, keeping in mind how long it will take to receive funds.  
  • Due to prior fundraising scams, many donors are wary of giving immediately following a disaster. Consider building into your campaign validation of your effort through promotion by an authority figure, at major events, connect with a 501(c)(3) if you are not one, or get a larger organization, company, or agency to promote your fundraising.
  • Be transparent, specific, and accountable to your donors.
  • Use photos, videos, or other tools to grab your audience and show how funds will be used. Have chamber employees, board members, or staff tell their stories to make it more personal.
  • Demonstrate how their donation will make a difference during the disaster. .
  • Communicate directly with your donors whenever possible.
  • Engage major donors to get more involved on a committee or your board. Have them come on-site to see chamber activity during recovery.
  • Be conscious of timing so that your request does not conflict with other campaigns asking for immediate relief needs. However, do not wait until after public attention has shifted from the disaster entirely. Also be aware that timing may impact online fundraising if electricity, the Internet, or telecommunications are down. 
  • Use social networks like Facebook and Twitter by creating a page or account specific to the fundraiser and create specific hashtags to increase awareness of your fundraiser, e.g. #chamberfund.
  • Use contacts from previous fundraisers and tell stories that will help your efforts “go viral” and reach more potential donors.
  • Consider using online services for fundraisers. Be aware of the various fee structures available for online donation portals.
  • When the disaster is over, thank donors and let them know how things are going at the chamber.
  • Write down your lessons learned and implement changes where needed.

Fundraising Resources

Establishing a Recovery Fund

Use your nonprofit status, or partner with a community foundation, to start a recovery fund. Name it something that is directly connected to the community or type of disaster, so that donors understand its purpose and donate e.g., Joplin Recovery Fund, Tornado Recovery Fund.

Patience is essential to developing a research-informed strategy for grant making. The pressure to respond immediately with grants is often very strong, especially if donors expect their financial gifts to be used right away. Disaster recovery is a marathon, not a sprint. Make grants strategically at appropriate times versus bending to the pressure to grant the funds immediately. Remember that there are many organizations that are resourced immediately to respond to the disaster as it is happening and shortly thereafter; there are far fewer which have the resources to carry out the long-term objectives of recovery and rebuilding.

Guiding Principles:

  1. Plan Ahead
  2. Act Quickly
  3. Have a Clear and Consistent Focus
  4. Establish Open and Constant Communication
  5. Be Accountable and Flexible
  6. Ensure Every Dollar Reaches Survivors
  7. Have Credible, Dedicated Leadership
  8. Be Informed

Volunteer and Nonprofit Matchmaking

  • If you have your own volunteer program that manages pre-identified volunteers and their specific skills (e.g., accounting, web developers, fundraising, sales, construction), contact volunteer matchmaking organizations to share your volunteer details. These matchmakers will connect those volunteers with the nonprofits that best fit their skills. Types of skills needed may change in a post-disaster environment, so consider reaching out to employees for newly demanded skills.
  • If you do not have an existing volunteer program, point staff, businesses, and interested others to matchmaker organizations so that they can connect directly.
  • Organizations that connect individuals and companies with volunteer opportunities:
  • HandsOn Network—
  • Lead Pro Bono, from the Taproot Foundation—
  • VolunteerMatch—
  • Sample Volunteer Liability Waiver forms. Before you use any waiver, seek proper legal counsel..
  • When disaster strikes, the Disaster Help Desk 1-888-MY-BIZ-HELP (1-888-692-4943) or can assist in the organizing of volunteers, although it is recommended that chambers support those organizations with which they already have an existing relationship.


  • Skills-Based Volunteers: Getting Started - Tips for interested businesses to create and participate in skilled-based volunteer programs, including explaining the different (SBV) models, assessing non-profits’ needs, and evaluating programs.

Resources – Tools and Products

  • The Readiness Roadmap – Takes non-profit leaders through a multi-stage, readiness assessment to determine whether they need and are ready for skilled volunteers. Geared more toward the recipient of the volunteers (which you may be one), but good information to understand potential skills that may be needed.The Nonprofit Readiness Toolkit for Pro Bono Volunteering – An online assessment guide that provides steps to prepare an organization to utilize volunteers. Provides case examples and resources.
  • AngelPoints – This is an integrated platform that provides the tools to track your volunteering, giving, and sustainability programs.
  • CauseCast – Helps organizations become better global citizens through increased volunteer and fundraising engagement around social change. Provides a centralized solution for volunteering, giving, matching, rewarding, and helping organizations manage causes.
  • Securing Waivers of Liability from Volunteers of Nonprofit Organizations - Explanation of volunteer waivers with a sample waiver at the end.

Resources - Organizations

Disaster Help Desk

  • 888-MY BIZ HELP / 888-692-4943 
  • Email:
  • Twitter:
  • Facebook:
  • Website:
  • HandsOn Connect – HandsOn Connect is the a volunteer management solution from Points of Light Institute and HandsOn Network. It’s a full lifecycle volunteer management platform that expands your capability to manage, track and report on people, programs, trainings and volunteer opportunities in real time.
  • Catchafire – This site matches professionals with nonprofits based on their skills, cause interest, and time availability.
  • Common Impact – A nonprofit that connects skilled professionals from global companies to high-potential local nonprofits.
  • Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) – A government agency, it’s the nation’s largest grant maker supporting service and volunteering.
  • ESC-US – Provides opportunities for skilled professionals to volunteer their expertise and experience, and for nonprofits to tap into the tremendous people resources available in communities.
  • Executives in Action (EIA) – Engages experienced executive leaders from the business sector as pro bono consultants to non-profit agencies that could not otherwise access such talent. It is primarily in Texas.
  • – World’s largest nonprofit networking site with more than one million registered users and thousands of job openings, volunteer opportunities, internships, and events posted by more than 94,000 organizations.
  • The Jericho Road Project – Connects the professional talents of volunteers with the needs of community-based nonprofits to promote community development, strengthen social services, and enrich the lives of volunteers.
  • Lex Mundi Pro Bono Foundation – Calls upon a global network of 160 commercial law firms to provide critical pro bono legal assistance to select non-profit “social entrepreneurs”.
  • Lead Pro Bono – Created by the Taproot Foundation, works to increase access to high-quality pro bono services for public benefit organizations working to address society’s social, environmental and economic issues.
  • NPower’s Community Corps – Represents a community of nonprofits, corporations and skilled professionals who share a passion for using technology to make a difference in people's lives, which it achieves  by matching pro bono resources with nonprofits in need of support.
  • Pro Bono Institute – Nonprofit organization that provides research, consultative services, analysis and assessment, publications, and training to a broad range of legal audiences.
  • Pro Bono Partnership – Provides nonprofit organizations in Connecticut, New Jersey and New York with free legal advice they could not otherwise afford, enhancing their capacity to improve local communities and provide essential programs for the poor and disadvantaged.
  • Taproot Foundation – Works to leverage top talent in support of communities' greatest needs. Operates in the metropolitan areas of San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Seattle, Washington, DC and Los Angeles.
  • VolunteerMatch – Strengthens communities by making it easier for good people and good causes to connect. They offer a variety of online services to support a community of nonprofit, volunteer and business leaders committed to civic engagement.

​Businesses need your leadership as their voice and advocate. Most have never been through a disaster and may struggle to address their most basic needs.

Case Management

  • After disasters, local governments will select some nonprofits to work directly with impacted individuals and families. This is called disaster case management. A disaster case manager helps people work through recovery strategies and how to get back on their feet. While designed for individuals, some communities have modified the approach to assist the private sector, called business case management.
  • If businesses do not know where to start their recovery, point them to the Disaster Help Desk 888-MY BIZ HELP (1-888-692-4943) or
  • Connect with your partners to plan what resources will be made available to businesses and how to communicate those resources.  Consider the following: Reach out to your local U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) office to discuss  loan guarantees, counseling, and training resources. Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) and Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) chapters are also great resources and have free counseling.  Also connect with local economic development offices. 

Business Case Management 

  • Business Long-Term Recovery – This first-of-its-kind Business Case Management tool was developed to assist small businesses in Cedar Rapids after the 2008 floods (View actual 2012 Report here. The report discusses what was developed, recovery timelines, partners, funding and resources, operations, process, workshops, case managers, business issues, evaluation, communications, stats, surveys, and case examples).
  • Business Disaster Case Management Task Force – Cedar Rapids 2010 report describes recovery efforts, funding used, important factors to help businesses, findings, and recommendations.

General Case Management – Can Assist in Establishing Model for Businesses

Case Management Software – Low-Cost

Case Management Software – Mid-Market Cost

Review from Idealware: They typically run about $5,000- $30,000 per year, depending on your requirements and number of users. For most systems you should also expect to pay a setup fee of at least several thousand dollars to get up and running with a system customized to your needs. Nearly all the tools below are hosted and web-based. Web-based software allows users to easily access data from multiple locations and saves considerable costs, which would otherwise be devoted to hardware, extra software, data security and backups, along with the staff to monitor these functions. Although a hosted case management vendor has physical possession of your data, a good vendor is likely to be able to keep it more secure and accessible than you could manage on your own. Here are others on the market:

Self-Diagnostic Tool

  • Chambers impacted by serious disasters often do not know the true state of their organization or what assistance to request. This online tool will walk you through a series of questions to identify what resources and skills may be needed to recover.
  • Ready Rating Program (Red Cross) - The Ready Rating program provides a 123-question assessment designed to help businesses identify gaps and strengths that can help you focus attention where it is needed most.

Mental Health

  • This is a topic no one wants to discuss; yet it is critical to recovery.
  • There are resources to help minor to severe trauma by allowing people to express their experiences following a disaster.
  • Disaster Distress Helpline - To reach out for free 24/7 counseling or support, contact the Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990 or text “TalkWithUs’ to 66746. TTY for Deaf/Hearing Impaired: 1-800-846-8517. To see the Red Cross page for this resource click here
  • American Psychological Association – Works with the Red Cross on crisis counseling available here.
  • Traumatic Stress: How to Recover from Disasters and other Traumatic Events – Great website covering a lot of information with how to’s, tips, and guidance.

Celebrate Milestones

  • Celebrating milestones during long-term disaster recovery is an important aspect of community recovery. Local chambers can lead this effort.
  • The community recovery process is immense, stressful, and labor intensive. When people are burdened by recovery efforts, celebrating milestones may seem frivolous. An often-overlooked element of recovery is the need to assure people that their hard work has a purpose, progress is being made, and there is light at the end of the tunnel.
  • Chambers can play a crucial role in planning for the return of businesses, business districts, etc. but also how this can extend into other parts of the community such as community centers, transportation routes, which are all support mechanisms for getting businesses back up and fully functional. Recovery requires interconnectivity between public, private, non-profit, faith-based and community organization or interests. Celebrating the return of one should garner support from the other areas in a “together we recover” type of approach.
  • Anniversaries are an easy milestone to celebrate, but not the only ones. The opening or reopening of hospitals, schools, iconic community locations like restaurants, civic spots, memorials, businesses, or areas that have prevailed against adverse odds are important as well. These milestones tell the story of the community working together, building back better and stronger.
  • When publicly celebrating milestones, it is important to acknowledge and be sensitive to the other areas of the community that may still be experiencing difficulties or could use some help. Not doing so could result in public backlash and resentment.
  • Praise, recognize and reward recovery efforts throughout all levels and sectors of the community.
  • Disaster Recovery Tips for Downtowns and Commercial Districts – Describes the important recovery steps for engagement of the entire community.
  • “Also, as the recovery continues, remember that many staff are either displaced themselves or are sharing their space with the staff who are displaced, making working conditions far less than ideal. Stress levels will be unusually high; therefore, setting a positive tone, recognizing staff accomplishments, and celebrating milestones are more important than ever.” (Quote from Comprehensive Guide to Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Recovery).
  • Celebrating Milestones – This Quorum blog discusses how to use milestones to keep an organization moving forward.