Additional tips for funders

Over and above the ’12 principles of support’ and ‘Top tips for implementation’ these are the key messages to funders with an interest in supporting those playing a role in recovery.

Resource and support organisations to support their personnel

Regardless of the size of an organisation, supporting personnel is vital. Resource organisations, individually or collectively, to enable them to support personnel. Most commonly requested supports involved a combination of:

  • Opportunities for breaks away or retreats – for replenishment and reflection
  • Roving relievers (with built in time for shadowing and learning systems)
  • Linking with mentors, networks, professional supervision and those who have a lived experience of a role in recovery 
  • Access to knowledge, info and expertise
  • Stress management skill development sessions
  • Load lightening support such as administration, IT, marketing etc
  • Expertise to create or tailor staff and volunteer support processes

It needs to be automatic thinking – a dual approach. For any psychosocial intervention add support for staff and community leaders who will be stressed due to the responsibility involved. Winnifred Simon – Antares Foundation

In one community in the school they had more support of the practical type. They were supported with assistant teachers alongside every teacher, they had a retreat space and a communal space for parents. The other school did not have this. There is a huge difference in the journeys of the respective school communities with the one that received the support going from strength to strength. Fiona Leadbeater – Volunteer, Kinglake Ranges

Include a requirement for a staff and volunteer wellbeing component, as good practice, in all proposal requirements (without sacrificing monies for service delivery).

Donors have a responsibility to model and enable systematic staff care practices for the sector. This is both through prioritising psychosocial support needs in key codes or guidelines as well as resourcing organisations to do this more effectively.   Kate Minto – Mandala Foundation

Fund long-term, sustainable recovery initiatives, recognising community building and complexity, not just tangible quick-wins. Long term funding ensures recovery is sustainable and meaningful, but also reduces the burden of multiple re-applications, lessens the stress and anxiety of role uncertainty and encourages more sustainable pace-setting for the long term than do short-term contracts. It also recognises the long-term nature of recovery and ameliorates the phenomenon of funding saturation in the early post-disaster days followed by scarcity from year three onwards when post-disaster needs continue and exhaustion is commonplace.

We expect the situation to continue for more than ten years. …  People expect projects which are begun to be continued. Fund long term as the needs continue or you will create more issues in the long run than you will solve.  Tohru Shirakawa - JVC

If you are planning to do it for one year then have the ability to do it for three. As agencies, wherever possible, refuse 12 months’ funding; unless you (the funder) make it three years we’re not going to do it.  John Richardson – Australian Red Cross

Fund the non-tangible for meaningful, sustainable impacts. Some of the most valuable recovery support is about the psychosocial, and is process oriented not output oriented. Preoccupation with concrete outputs neglects vital social processes at the heart of community development and disaster recovery.

The rhetoric of community resilience has been increasing used in the disaster preparedness and response field in the US, but this has not been matched by a change in policy and procedures that support methods of community engagement and capacity building… There is a tangible output focus and the systems of accountability are head counting not social processes. Dr Jack Saul - International Trauma Studies Program

Embrace flexibility – Recovery is not business-as-usual. It is unpredictable, ever-changing and complex. Therefore standard ways of operating do not suffice. Have a clear objective, but allow autonomy on the how. This acknowledges not only that recovery is fluid but also that those at the community level are best placed to flex and respond to meet the changing need with regards to the objective. If the end goal is a positive outcome for community, then the community-based organisations are the best motivated and the best positioned to be able to achieve this if they are given the freedom to do so.

Avoid strings. Constraints and conditions act as barriers to flexibly meeting communities’ recovery needs and adds the burden of finding multiple funding sources per project. Be prepared to fund all project elements - most crucial of which are people.

A strict system of rules to access funding – assiduous in reporting and documenting how you use the money and a tight budget and various rules and restraints... It is nicer to have a situation where you give the overall vision of what you’d like to do and the funder gives money in a way which allows flexibility to apply the money as you best see fit so long as the end goal is met or contributed to in the end, without all the restrictions. Kyoko Watanabe – Ishinomaki 2.0

Not putting expectations on your assistance. And imposed timeframes – we were written a nasty letter from a donor, wishing they hadn’t helped us as we hadn’t completed the community project according to their timelines. We wanted to do it in a considered way. Photo opportunities detract from the gift – we have bereaved people and then they are asked to come and smile for the camera. We are beyond grateful for what we have received but the thank you letters weighed on us…  But the contributions that came without any expectation – they were a breath of fresh air. We could take it and appreciate it. Maybe a learning for everybody is the lesson of the true act of giving. If the expectation is that you will need a thank you maybe don’t do it. Fiona Leadbeater – Volunteer, Kinglake Ranges

It is difficult to value and measure the impact of staff but they are a huge success factor. It just isn’t going to work without the people. There isn’t spare capacity in agencies. There isn’t someone sitting around waiting to pick up new initiatives. John Richardson – Australian Red Cross

Recognise as legitimate and valuable the role that grassroots leaders, volunteers and non-traditional recovery supporters play. Value their pride and their knowledge. Build their capacity in response to their self-identified need, but avoid changing or diluting their essence - their ways of doing things in the community.

Don’t be so damned professional. If you act like a robot and sound like a robot people will think you are a robot. You have to have a warm heart, beating blood and compassion. Meet with them and get to know them and get to support them anyway you can because the grassroots don’t hit red tape. The little fish don’t always have to follow the same protocols – support them as they can often do more freely what the big fish really want to be able to do but can’t. Do your research and then be prepared to take a gamble. Maybe start with a small piece of the pie and build an active working relationship. We know how to stretch a dollar. Mike Hoffman – Yellow Boots, Staten Island

Consult and think creatively to smooth processes and reduce demands, recognising that the scarce commodity of time is best spent supporting communities and will ultimately maximise outcomes. For example, simplifying application and reporting procedures and stretching the reporting periods (for example from quarterly to bi-annually or yearly) equates to a lightened load and more time supporting communities. 

Flexibility is important. Know that in recovery you need to suspend or loosen up normal business procedures. Explore how you can do things a little more flexibly or the demands put an enormous pressure on people. Dr Rob Gordon, Consultant psychologist in emergency recovery

Operate from a place of humility

Funders, check your expectations at the door. It is not about you, it is about them. John Richardson – Australian Red Cross

See ourselves as supporting sponsors – not the main actor. We are a sub-character I say.  Tohru Shirakawa - JVC