On June 20, 2012, Duluth, Minn. experienced some of the worst flooding in the city's recorded history. Local relief organizations - as well as city, state and county representatives - were overwhelmed by requests for assistance. The Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation (DSACF) kicked its collaborative approach to problem solving into high gear and created the 2012 Flood Immediate Response Fund. DSACF president Holly C. Sampson talked with InCommons about how active listening and clear communication helped achieve calm and productive results through the crisis.
The media photos told a grim story: giant sinkholes, entire roads washed away and neighborhoods underwater. But long after the Duluth floodwaters receded, the damage to homes, businesses and infrastructure remained - much of it unnoticeable to the news helicopters.
Almost immediately, the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation sprang into action. We knew disaster relief funding wouldn't begin to cover all of the needs in our community, and we started getting requests for assistance from area nonprofits, many of which wouldn't qualify for state or federal aid and didn't have insurance coverage.
One of the first things we did was convene our area funders - including the United Ways across the region and the Northland Foundation - to assess immediate needs for staff capacity, temporary workspace and other essentials.
The Council of Foundations has great literature on disaster grantmaking, which gave us valuable advice about how to best address community needs during a natural disaster. The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), upon our request, also helped us figure out some of the most pressing needs by including nonprofit organizations in their disaster survey, originally targeted toward the business community. We held our first meetings six days after the flood and worked together to determine the scope of the damage, monetary estimates for clean up and the best organizations to lead the relief efforts.
Local grantmaking organizations have created a coordinated response to the recent flooding disaster. The United Ways of the Twin Port Region (including United Way of Greater Duluth, United Way of Carlton County, United Way of Superior Douglas County, United Way of 10,000 Lakes, and the United Way of Northeast Minnesota) have created Long Term Flood Relief Fund, focusing on the needs of individuals and families after all other means of support have been exhausted. The Northland Foundation has created the Business Recovery Fund, focusing on the needs of area businesses that sustained flood damage. The Community Foundation's 2012 Flood Immediate Response Fund complements these efforts by addressing the immediate needs of area nonprofit organizations.
The fund focuses on three key needs:
- Rebuilding nonprofit stability for organizations whose mission fulfillment capabilities were substantially reduced by the flood;
- Addressing systematic issues resulting from the flood, such as mental health and housing needs;
- And assisting individuals and families with direct assistance in the form of funds, services or goods provided by nonprofit organizations.
This collaborative approach ensured that we were all capitalizing on our own individual organizational strengths, while ensuring full coverage and maximum efficiency. While needs are still great, we are incredibly proud of our community's coordinated effort in responding to the disaster and are confident that together we will rebuild a healthy, vibrant region.
Learn more about collaborative learning and listening by attending InCommons Gathering or Art of Hosting session, or by visiting the InCommons website and using the search-and-connect feature. If you have a story of community collaboration in action, please send us an email.