SVCF survey of nonprofits' disaster preparedness highlights challenges, work to be done

Sarah DavisonGetting ready for emergencies, especially natural disasters, should be an integral part of our regional planning efforts in Silicon Valley. At SVCF, we work to ensure our own organization is prepared – but we are also involved in ensuring other organizations can respond to disaster effectively as well. 

In early 2011, for example, SVCF signed disaster preparedness grant agreements with 20 nonprofits organizations (listed below) throughout our two-county region to ‘pre-qualify’ them for grants ranging from $25,000 to $75,000. These agreements will be activated in cases of declared disasters so that these organizations can quickly deliver services such as food, shelter, health and mental health care to vulnerable communities.

In 2015, SVCF also assessed these organizations’ own levels of disaster preparedness with the goal of better understanding how to support them. SVCF surveyed the 20 pre-qualified organizations regarding their current preparedness priorities and challenges. As part of the evaluation, we also gathered information about how other communities in the Bay Area approach planning for community resiliency (how well a community withstands and recovers from adversity) amongst nonprofit organizations.  

Prior to this survey of the disaster preparedness landscape, all of the pre-qualified organizations had some form of written disaster plan or continuity-of-operations plan in place. However, these plans varied greatly in scope, content and comprehensiveness. The landscape survey highlighted the fact that the lack of preparation by nonprofit organizations is not due to lack of awareness, but rather to resource shortages, overwhelming staff demands and a lack of concrete guidance.

This review also showed that disaster preparedness efforts are not standardized across all organizations. Thus, the recommendations that stem from our assessment include trainings for nonprofit organizations from multiple agencies, as well as customized technical support. The goal is to strengthen the resilience of these organizations and the greater community. 

Understanding the vital role these organizations serve in the wake of a potential disaster, SVCF will partner with them to ensure our region is better prepared to respond in case of a major crisis. 

For more information about these efforts, contact me at


Nonprofits with disaster preparedness agreements with SVCF:

Asian Americans for Community Involvement (AACI)
American Red Cross, Silicon Valley Chapter
Bill Wilson Center
Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County
Coastside Hope
Community Services Agency
Community Solutions for Children Families and Individuals
Indian Health Center of Santa Clara County
Loaves & Fishes Family Kitchen
Puente de la Costa Sur
Ravenswood Family Health Center
Sacred Heart Community Service
Samaritan House
Second Harvest Food Bank
InnVision Shelter Network
St. Joseph’s Family Center
St. Vincent de Paul (SVdP) of San Mateo County
United Way Silicon Valley
West Valley Community Service