A Playbook for Funders

January 13, 2016

Disaster Playbook

This week, a major new resource for foundations is launching and expected to be one of the most important new tools to serve for the field of philanthropy that has come along in some time.

Nina Stack
Nina Stack

The Disaster Philanthropy Playbook was born out of the Council of New Jersey Grantmakers post-Hurricane-Sandy work in 2012-14. In the days, weeks, and months following the storm the Council convened weekly funder briefing calls that were enormously valuable “learning sessions.”

New Jersey’s foundation leaders heard firsthand how philanthropic colleagues around the country had responded to disasters in their communities. They got informed answers to questions like — Do we help with immediate humanitarian needs? Do we wait to help with rebuilding? What will the needs of people and survivors be in six months or a year? It was and will always be a confusing and overwhelming situation but learning from others who had gone before made a significant, improved difference in the response.

The Playbook is the comprehensive resource of best practices and innovative approaches that can help guide all donors as we prepare for and respond to future disasters. It officially launches today at www.disasterplaybook.org.

Designed as a multimedia, interactive website, the Playbook compiles ideas and approaches from multiple organizations.  It has been created as an “evergreen” resource designed for continued updates and knowledge-building. Community planning, civic rebuilding, legal services, housing, addressing the needs of vulnerable populations, working with local, state and federal government, mitigation and preparedness are some of the common issues faced by communities post disaster that are covered in detail in the Playbook.

The Playbook outlines how organizations can prepare for all phases of a disaster. What can we do to plan and prepare our community? What about mitigation? How do we help build a resilient community? What should we think about in the months and years after a disaster as we undertake the arduous path of recovery?

As we know well here in New Jersey, smart philanthropy is important when it comes to disasters. A poorly informed and poorly planned response can potentially put the lives of men, women, and children, and entire communities at risk. And it will create a negative impression of the organization making the response.

I am very proud that all we’ve learned together in New Jersey can now be passed on to philanthropies working across the United States and around the world.

The Council of New Jersey Grantmakers has partnered with the Center for Disaster Philanthropy to create the Playbook, and we’ve worked closely with our colleagues at the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers. We have been fortunate to have several New Jersey foundations helping to underwrite its creation. The Rita Allen Foundation and its CEO Elizabeth Christopherson recognized early the importance and impact a knowledge sharing resource like the Playbook could have and provided the lead grant.  Johnson & Johnson and PSEG Foundation have also been generous supporters.


Nina Stack is President of the Council of New Jersey Grantmakers, the statewide association of more than 120 funding organizations working in New Jersey. She also serves as a Board Member of the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers, a 34-member network serving more than 4,000 foundations, corporations and other donors across the country.