Preplanning Leads to Quick Response: The PwC Charitable Foundation’s Disaster Response Strategy

September 20, 2018
Charlotte Coker Gibson
Executive Director, PricewaterhouseCoopers Charitable Foundation, Inc. / Director, Responsible Business Leadership, PwC

Disasters are most often unexpected and urgent, which sometimes conflicts with funders’ desire to perform thorough due diligence and vetting of grant recipients to ensure alignment with strategy and maximum impact. The PwC Charitable Foundation has addressed this tension by identifying credible national and global nonprofits working in disaster relief/response, before a crisis strikes, and establishing strategic multi-year collaborations. Though it takes an upfront investment, having these relationships in place enables the Foundation to mobilize quickly in times of need -- an approach which proved incredibly effective during Hurricanes Harvey, Maria and Irma and the Mexico City earthquake. 

Supported by PwC LLP, its partners and staff, the PwC Charitable Foundation funds innovative nonprofits in the areas of education and humanitarianism, and assists the people of PwC in times of need. Disaster response and recovery is an integral part of the Foundation’s humanitarian grantmaking. In 2015, the Foundation made a multi-year grant to Team Rubicon, an international disaster response nonprofit that organizes veterans to serve as first responders. The grant included funding for both capacity-building and Team Rubicon’s Ready Reserve, for federally-declared natural disasters yet to come. When Harvey struck, the Ready Reserve helped a Team Rubicon contingent get on the ground within days. This rapid response would have been impossible without our existing relationship. Once Harvey’s extensive damage had been assessed, the Foundation made an additional grant to Team Rubicon for support recovery and rebuilding operations. In September, a delegation from PwC’s Veterans Affinity Network, spent 14 days working alongside Team Rubicon. Together, they cleaned out houses and removed debris in five regions from Houston to Beaumont, Texas. “Hurricane Harvey was Team Rubicon’s largest operation since inception in 2010. Without the continuous support from allies like the PwC Charitable Foundation, we would not have been able to quickly and effectively serve nearly 1,000 families in the Houston area,” said David Burke, Vice President of Programs and Field Operations, Team Rubicon.

Along with support of Team Rubicon, the Foundation made several additional grants during 2017, turning to nonprofits with which it has long standing relationships, including DonorsChoose.org and Feeding America -- organizations focused on response in affected communities. These collaborations helped bring people to safety, provide basic necessities, keep families together, support rebuilding efforts and deploy resources into communities where they were needed most.

In addition to being prepared to respond to hard-hit communities, the PwC Foundation takes care of PwC people in times of emergency financial hardship and whose lives are upended when disaster strikes through its People Who Care Fund. The PwC Foundation can activate emergency protocols, enabling those impacted to quickly get assistance for immediate necessities -- food, water, clean clothes, and a safe place to stay. This fast action helps turn what might be an unrecoverable disaster into an event with far less severity. As the 2017 season unfolded, PwC partners and staff contributed generously to the Foundation to support real-time response and the people of PwC. The People Who Care Fund was able to provide over 600 emergency financial hardship grants to impacted PwC staff and partners and their immediate family members, often within hours of the onset of each crisis.

The Foundation remains committed to pre-funding, and is identifying new nonprofits that are addressing emergency and long-term shelter needs, providing support for children and families and rebuilding schools. It’s working collaboratively with PwC LLP’s National Crisis Management and Responsible Business Leadership teams to disseminate our response protocols and ensure our local leaders know what resources are available to support them in times of need. Increased advance planning and preparation will further strengthen our ability to continue mobilizing and responding quickly to disasters and get resources to the communities when they need it most. 

Last, the job is not simply responding to natural and mass violence catastrophes, as disasters can take many shapes and forms. The PwC Charitable Foundation applies this same strategy of preparation and pre-identifying collaborators for early investment when it comes to addressing slow-burning social crises, such as the growing shortage of critical skills in the workforce. No matter what the situation, this approach allows the PwC Foundation to mobilize solutions and deploy support most effectively and that is good for the firm, our staff and the communities in which we operate.