A Day After the Boston Bombing: Where is Philanthropy?


Update: A funders teleconference on the philanthropic response to the tragedy at the Boston Marathon will be held Thursday, April 18th at 10:30a ET, sponsored by Associated Grant Makers. Click here to register. You can also visit their Disaster Relief page for additional information and updates.

The bombings in Boston were senseless, evil and tremendously sad. Like everyone, my heart goes out to all affected, and it will likely be days, weeks and months before we comprehend the full impact of this tragedy. Because I consult in philanthropy and have written and given speeches about disaster-related grantmaking, I thought I could help in a small way by quickly passing along information via Twitter about how foundations are responding to this tragedy and ways people can help. I went to the websites of what I assumed would be my “go-to” sources of information: The Boston Foundation, Associated Grant Makers  (the regional association of grantmakers in Massachusetts) Council on Foundations, the Chronicle of Philanthropy, and the Center on Disaster Philanthropy.

To my surprise there was very little information listed, but I am passing along what I have learned and links to some of the helpful resources shared via Twitter.

The Boston Foundation’s home page lists memorial services and candlelight vigils in the Boston area during the coming days, and requests that people email them with any additional memorials. Their statement about this tragedy indicates “We continue to be in touch with state and local officials as well as other members of the nonprofit and philanthropic community, as we develop our immediate and longer-term efforts to support our community in this time of need.” I am sure we will learn more from them in the coming days and weeks, and recommend that anyone interested be sure to check their website and follow them on Twitter @Bostonfdn.

At the time of this writing, there was nothing about the Boston tragedy listed on the website of Associated Grant Makers, although they did have a tweet directing people to some very helpful resources I’ve cited below (You can follow them on Twitter at @AGMconnect). The Council on Foundations’ website included a short statement of sympathy but no additional information directing grantmakers or donors to resources, although they also shared useful information via Twitter (follow at @COF_). Similarly, there was nothing on the websites Chronicle of Philanthropy or the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.

Here are the resources I have found most helpful in my initial scan of websites and Twitter. Of course I welcome anyone to share additional and updated resources as a comment to this blog.

Other resources on general disaster preparedness grantmaking and grantmaking during times of disaster (not specific to Boston) can be found here:

I realize it’s not the responsibiltiy of any one foundation, organization, or association of grantmakers to be the real-time, go-to source of information about how to make donations during the time of a disaster. I cannot imagine how hard it must be to live and work in Boston today, and I am certain that there are many behind the scenes conference calls and emails flying across the country today among very smart, seasoned philanthropists and philanthropy professionals gathering information and seeking to develop a coordinated response (and I’m hopeful we will learn more soon). I also strongly believe that it is important for philanthropy to “do no harm” and take time to plan out a response. But I do feel that it would be tremendously helpful if foundations and grantmaking associations developed communications plans as part of their own disaster preparedness planing to immediately communicate with their constituents — grantmakers, philanthropists, donors, and everyday citizens who want to help — during and following a disaster.  Even if it is only, as the Boston Foundation has done, to let us know that they are working on it, to share initial resources, to request more information, and to stay tuned.

Kris is a sought after philanthropy advisor, expert and award-winning author. She has helped over 90 foundations and philanthropists strategically allocate and assess over half a billion dollars in grants and gifts.

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