- Some definitions to keep in mind:
- An act of terror: Terrorism is defined as the intentional use or threat to use violence against civilian targets to achieve political aims (for example: the Sept. 11 attacks or the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando).
- A tragic event: A criminal act involving multiple deaths and/or injuries motivated by things other than political aims (for example: Sandy Hook school shooting).
- Man-made crisis: a non-natural disaster (for example: Deepwater oil spill, Flint water crisis, pictured right)
2. Crises tend to expose community problems, such as racism, economic inequality, and segregation. As a funder, be a neutral table. Provide space for many different ideas, inform the work that is happening, and curate what has happened over time.
3. Vulnerable citizens on the ground who have nothing to do with unfolding events may be cut off from key services. During rioting in Baltimore, the elderly were unable to reach pharmacies or groceries, in part because of the situation on the streets and also because some of the buildings had burned. After the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, many who needed follow-on services did not seek them out since their families did not know they were gay/lesbian/bisexual.
4. These types of crises are frequently charged with emotion, which will tend to dictate the swell of response. For example, emotions following the Sandy Hook shooting were high both in the community and across the state and nation due to the primary victims of the event. As a community funder, you are poised to manage the emotion, while keeping mid- and long-term needs in mind. In the case of the Sandy Hook event, mental health needs in the area rose drastically in the years following.
Maryland Army National Guard soldiers and local law enforcement watch protesters gathered in front of City Hall, Baltimore, April 30, 2015. Credit: U.S. Army National Guard Sgt. Margaret Taylor, 29th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.
5. It is important to view victims in concentric circles that include those most immediately affected (those who die, have injuries, and their immediate families), first responders, witnesses, media, and others. There are many people affected by a traumatic event, and philanthropy should take this into account as it launches funds in a crisis and decides how that money will be allocated. Often, when a fund is launched in these situations, the money goes only to victims and their families. If your organization launches a fund, understand the concentric circles of those affected and fund accordingly. Some key examples:
- Following the Sandy Hook shooting, the mental health needs in that county and surrounding counties rose drastically for subsequent months.
- After the Boston Marathon bombing, a large fund was set up to assist victims. However, the bombs also impacted several small businesses, causing them to close for months and years after the event. They received little or no philanthropic support, even though they were a part of community devastated by the event.
- In the aftermath of the Pulse nightclub shooting, philanthropic leaders quickly determined that some affected people who had witnessed the event or lost a friend or loved one were not seeking supportive services because their families did not know they were gay, lesbian, or bi-sexual.
6. The area might be a crime scene. This will mean interfacing with local and national law enforcement agencies. Coordinate with them to ensure victims’ needs are met.
7. Mental health is often the largest and longest-term need following a traumatic incident. The victims, families, community, and nation requires time to grieve. In the trenches from day one, and often for months and years after the event, the staff of responding organizations will feel the crisis keenly. Though there is a marked increase in mental health needs in areas that experience a violent incident or act of terror, this need is typically underserved and underfunded.