5 Ways Small Businesses Can Help Louisiana Flood Victims

UntitledMore than 7 trillion gallons of rain fell in Louisiana and Mississippi over just eight days.

On August 12, 2016, rain hit our home state of Louisiana. What seemed to be a normal storm soon became one of the worst natural disasters in recent years. Mass flooding, displaced families, and massive damage ravaged several parishes and cities in our state (including the city that ThreeSixtyEight calls home, Baton Rouge). Our state now faces a crisis like it hasn’t seen since the days of Katrina.

Several of our team members were displaced for days, with one needing to rebuild his home. Admittedly, this is the hardest challenge we have faced as a company, but remain resilient and pledge to help others during this time. Throughout the week of August 15th, our team members were gutting houses, collecting items to donate for shelters, organizing fundraisers and even creating websites to promote donations. While the flood itself has been devastating to Louisiana, it has given us the opportunity to rebuild ourselves stronger than before.

11We collected over 50 new pillows from the community to donate to a local shelter.

Over the course of the last two weeks, we’ve been asked by numerous local and non-local businesses about ways to contribute to those impacted by the flood. As active community involvement remains one of our core focus areas at ThreeSixtyEight, we thought to share a master list on how local and non-local businesses can help flood victims.

1) Donate to a fund supporting those that were impacted

If you would like to help with a monetary donation, the Louisiana Small Business Rebirth Fund gives “micro-grants” to aid in faster recovery for any business impacted by the flood. The fund is backed by established local nonprofit organizations like the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, Greater New Orleans Inc., the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, the Louisiana Association of Chambers of Commerce Executives, the Louisiana Chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business, and One Acadiana.

If you would like to donate money to organizations that will help individuals, schools, or nonprofits affected by the flood, here is a list of (mostly tax-deductible) organizations currently accepting donations:

2) Assist in fundraising

If you don’t have a lot of money to give, you can still help flood victims by organizing community support. Creative fundraisers that involve the community can be an effective way to gather funds – a little bit from a lot of people adds us fast. A few of our team members put this to the test with the Fundraiser Under the Overpass, a food and drink fundraiser inspired by their love of (you guessed it) food and drink. Their efforts raised over $45k for the Baton Rouge Area Foundation fund, which is still accepting donations.

You can also help by creating items people can rep for a good cause. For example, everyone loves t-shirts. Corey Schneider, a Senior Designer at ThreeSixtyEight, created and sold Cajun Navy shirts, with all proceeds going to flood victims. For reference, Cajun Navy refers to the boatmen that helped save victims trapped in rising waters.

22You can order your own Cajun Navy t-shirts here.

These are just some ways we helped raise funds for impacted victims. Other creative ways your business can help fundraise are:

  • If you are an artist, sell your art and donate proceeds to flood victims (for example, you can support flood relief proceeds through custom made batons here from Dirty Coast/Goodwood NOLA or get custom made prints here from Lionheart Prints that say “Come Hell or High Water”)
  • If you are a business, donate part of your profits to a charity (see here for an example of how local Baton Rouge restaurants are donating part of their brunch profits to flood relief charities at an event called Brunching for Greater Baton Rouge)
  • If you are a business, offer lower prices to help those needing your services/products. Appliance Distributors of Louisiana knew that many homes will need new appliances, so they are offering to sell their appliances at builder pricing. They shared this offer with their community on Facebook and received over 1,000 shares. As an active community partner for years their following knew that their motivation for this sale was one of legitimate goodwill rather than an economical one.

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When you do fundraise, remember that it’s important to be a credible source (for starters, do you have a website with info of your cause?). Take time to educate people on the work that you do, what you stand for, and, especially if you’re out of state, why you decided to come to a disaster zone… was it for the money or for the opportunity to help a community that needs it the most? Be kind and be transparent with people, and they will trust you to rebuild their life.

3) Donate time to help houses, shelters, and organizations that need it.

444This picture was taken while volunteering at a local shelter.

Helping those in need is an incredibly fulfilling experience and the feeling is amplified when you help as a team. Right now, houses need to be gutted and rebuilt, shelters need help with assisting displaced people and animals, and food banks need help serving food. If you and your team are able to give time to help areas that were heavily affected, please do so. Volunteering your time is currently the biggest need.

For ways to donate time, here are some places to volunteer:

  • Volunteer Louisiana (a Louisiana state official website that contains info for various volunteer opportunities throughout the different city and parishes)
  • The Cajun Army (a group that is gathering nation-wide to help assist those affected in South Louisiana)
  • Here are news aggregates that regularly update on places that need help:
    • CNN (list of places to help)
    • NOLA.com (frequently updated list of places to volunteer)

4) Donate items strategically

There are a lot of shelters that are cramped right now with tons of donation. If you want to donate, please donate things that people actually need and request. As crazy as it sounds, sometimes shelters get overwhelmed with donations (such as too many clothes).

If you would like to donate items, here are a list of resources that are frequently updated with shelter needs:

  • WAFB (regularly updated local places that are accepting certain donations)
  • NOLA.com (directory on how non-local companies can donate goods)
  • NOLA.com (directory on what goods local animal shelters need)

If you have access to food, donate food for those volunteering and those impacted. The Cajun Spoon holds philanthropy at their core – they donate a meal to local food banks per box sold. The day after the disaster, our CEO Kenny Nguyen joined The Cajun Spoon CEO Ryan Grizzaffi in living out this social mission as they served jambalaya at a local shelter for victims and volunteers. Something as simple as having a warm, home-cooked meal went a long way for these people; it gave them a small taste of normalcy.

555Warm bowls of jambalaya certainly lifted some spirits at a local shelter we visited.

If providing food, be sure to check, before cooking, if your chosen place will accept it. If not, just drive around any neighborhood in Ascension, Livingston, East Baton Rouge, Acadiana, or Denham Springs and drop off plate lunches. All of those affected will surely appreciate a warm meal made with love.

5) Streamline your processes to help minimize decision making

If you are a local business wanting to help flood relief victims, look for ways to streamline your processes and products. We’ll use another one of our clients – Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers – as an example. During major disasters, they simplify their menu to the most popular item they sell; The Box Combo. This allows for higher volume of sales while maintaining quick delivery and a happy client base. This simplified way of offering product can help your impacted business accurately forecast the materials needed to fulfill orders as you’re only focusing on a simple, popular option that will help most.

This approach can even be scaled to service businesses. For example, let’s say you were a general contractor. Is there a cost-effective way to offer multiple services in one affordable package for those needing to demolish and repair homes? See if you can build packages around your most popular services to streamline sales and offer peace of mind to customers that need to make multiple decisions on what they need.

Flood victims are already dealing with long waits with government agencies and insurance companies. Don’t add to their wait time with bureaucracy or processes that make decisions take longer. Simplify to help them buy. The goal here is to provide good, quality service in the quickest form possible as your sales process will make or break a company during a crisis response.

As your business explores ways to help, here are some important points to remember:

  • When involving yourself with flood relief, understand that people impacted will most likely be frustrated and overwhelmed with the amount of decisions they have to make – be patient and be kind.
  • Have clear communication with flood victims and clearly establish what is the best way you may help. It may not always be money that helps the most, but your time.
  • Be human and don’t act like a corporation when helping; people are looking for a partner in the relief efforts and not another 1-800 number that’s going to keep them on hold for what feels like hours to answer simple questions.
  • If you’re a business in the affected areas, please check in with your customers. Offer help and even if you can’t formally help someone, find someone in your network that can. Giving, even if indirectly, will always come back to you when the time is right.

The months ahead will be challenging for Louisianans but luckily we’re not alone in our recovery efforts. Organizations from all across the country have already reached out and helping us out in a big way, such as the University of South Carolina coming to the aid of the LSU community just a year after flooding devastated their own community. We’ll need the nation’s support, prayers, and good vibes to make it through this, but we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Through the toughest of storms, we’ll emerge as a stronger Louisiana.

If you are a business that needs help coming up with creative ways to assist with relief efforts, please feel free to contact us at hello@threesixtyeight.is. Upon receiving your email, one of our team members will contact you promptly for a brainstorming session on how your business can help make a difference in the flood relief efforts.

 

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