Animal Groups To Battle Disasters Together

March 4, 2015       Mark Hrywna      

A group of animal welfare organizations have joined together to streamline grantmaking in the aftermath of a disaster.

To avoid potentially duplicative efforts but also streamline the process, grant applications can be submitted to a centralized website — www.animaldisasterfunding.org — where five lead nonprofits will review them: ASPCA, Humane Society of the United States, PetFinder Foundation, GreaterGood and Animal Assistance Foundation.

After Hurricane Sandy in 2012, ASPCA said it received more than 70 grant requests from affected animal welfare groups and animal response organizations called upon to help pet owners and animals in crisis. Ultimately, ASPCA awarded more than $500,000 in Sandy-related grants but realized a more expedient way to get funds to local groups was necessary.

The new site will allow animal groups and responders to spend less time and resource seeking funding, avoiding potentially duplicative efforts of applying to more than one organizations for funds, and more time helping pets and their owners in crisis.

Claire Sterling, director of grant strategies at ASPCA, said the organizations are trying to make the process for applying for funding as a straightforward as possible, which under ideal circumstances can be busy but especially during disasters. “It’s easier for us to identify needs in a given area, and to make it easier to not provide duplicative funding where it may not be needed or overlook a gap in funding that might not otherwise receive everyone’s attention,” she said.

The effort started when ASPCA had informal conversations with other partner organizations on other projects, according to Sterling, and keeping each other posted about different requests they’d been getting and their plans on funding particular applicants. There were informal conversations around the time of Hurricane Sandy in 2012 but the foundation was laid for a more serious discussion by the time high floods swept through Colorado a year later. “That was really the catalyst, the turning point, when we decided it would be a good idea,” Sterling said.

The site developed quickly, more about getting consensus about processes, how the review committee would function, eligibility, and questions on shared application. ASPCA has taken the lead on the website, providing maintenance of the web platform and associated emails and hosting fees.

The website is live but organization can’t apply yet. It will be on a per disaster basis. “The way we framed this, the site is a placeholder. It tells people that it exists, it’s there and is a resource,” Sterling said. The site would stay largely as it is for a particular disaster, with a link to apply and an Request For Proposal explaining the criteria.

The site would go into effect as an application portal in the course of a major disaster in which one or more of the partner groups would decide to mobilize. Not every single group that’s a founding member would necessarily get involved for every disaster every time, according to Sterling, but would depend on the particular circumstances at that time.

Organizations are eligible as long as they addresses animal needs, in two general categories: animal organizations or another type of nonprofit that works with animals in some way that has itself been affected by a disaster. The classic example, Sterling said, would be an animal shelter that suffered damage to its facility.

The hope is to grow the group of funders to include not only other animal welfare groups but also include funders who might not necessarily have thought of animal welfare or providing support as a core mission but realize there is some overlap, Sterling said. “We learned from Katrina, people would not evacuate without their pets,” she said, adding that keeping pets and people together during times of crisis is a potential area for overlap for other organizations, such as community foundations focused on holistically serving people and the quality of life in a community.