10/30/2012 05:33 pm ET Updated Dec 30, 2012

Hurricane Sandy: 5 Tips for Business Donors

While the Eastern Seaboard starts to assess the impact and needs that follow in Sandy's wake, your company might also be thinking about the storm -- such as how you might choose to assist with response efforts. The business community has been a major partner in disaster relief and recovery for several years and in a variety of disaster settings (read more about this here). It's a good time to share five disaster tips for business donors.

1. Look to Your Long-Term Partners for Reliable Information

At the beginning of a disaster, there is a tendency to make quick giving decisions before knowing all the facts. It is important for companies to establish good partnerships with reliable organizations -- before disasters -- in order to receive accurate information after the disaster. With misinformation swirling after disasters, reliable partners are the key to wise decision-making. Count on BCLC's National Disaster Help Desk for Business (1-888-MY-BIZ-HELP / 888-692-4943), supported by the Office Depot Foundation, as one source for reliable information.

2. Coordinate with Professional Disaster Aid Providers

Make it a policy to wait for an invitation either from a government agency or a reputable disaster aid service provider, especially in terms of volunteering. Unaffiliated volunteers (those who just show up at a disaster zone) engage in risky behavior because they may not be aware of all of the potential hazards and processes, and can be counter-productive to the response effort. Encourage employees to talk to your company's volunteer manager, or a reputable volunteer agency in your community, if they are interested in donating their time.

3. Realize that Communities Need Help with All Phases of the Disaster Cycle

Your company can announce its pledge quickly, but this does not mean that all funds have to be committed to a single organization or within a short time frame. Most disaster aid efforts decline dramatically within six months after the disaster, but full community recovery can take as long as 25 years after some events. A good rule of thumb is to designate 1/3 of your donation for relief, 1/3 for recovery, and 1/3 for planning for future community resilience.

4. Create a Strategic Giving Plan and Communicate It to Employees

Consider how your giving strategy aligns with your company's core competencies and what you hope to accomplish through your efforts. In some cases, this may mean supporting a larger relief or reconstruction effort. In other cases, your company may be able to define a niche where it can add unique value. Regardless, it is important for employees to understand that your company is participating in the disaster response process, even if it does not look like immediate action is being taken.

5. Don't Forget About Your Employees

After major disasters, many of your company's own employees will need help getting their lives back together. Companies can play a major role in this effort. Resources like liberal leave, financial and psychological assistance, temporary housing, relocation assistance, check-cashing services, and volunteer opportunities can go a long way in helping your employees get back on their feet. Contact BCLC if you would like a referral to a company that has provided these disaster assistance services to employees in the past.

Online: Business Civic Leadership Center