How to Improve the Impact of Distributed Goods and Charities with Jim Alvey
“[Helping] is a passion that goes deep. If we could steer that passion towards funding for the nonprofits that needed to do what they know they need to do, we can facilitate product donations at a much, much higher level.” -Jim Alvey
One of the biggest problems with donated goods is that a lot of them end up in landfills. This is because people often donate items that they no longer need or want, without considering whether or not someone else could actually use them. This thoughtless act, although coming from a genuine desire to help, results in what we call a ‘secondary disaster’.
Therefore, we have to make sure that our intentions are truly meeting a need. The key is to have the right goods for the right people at the right time.
This is the goal of Good360, the global leader in product philanthropy and purposeful giving. Their mission is to connect organizations who want to donate with nonprofits who actually need that specific help.
In this episode, Jennifer sits with Good360‘s VP of Disaster Recovery and Philanthropy, Jim Alvey. Jennifer and Jim discuss how to close the ‘need gap’ in product donations distribution and identify the unmet needs for a community’s long-term recovery. They also talk about the disadvantages of unsolicited goods and the short attention span of donors and the public, the importance of rebuilding at the right pace, Good360’s partners, and building resilience into recovery.
- 02:44 Doing Social Good with Good360
- 08:00 Donations and Disaster Response
- 15:38 Right Goods, Right People, Right Time
- 22:51 Employing Tech in Disaster Response
- 26:53 Right Rebuilding at the Right Pace
- 35:40 Closing the Gap Between Impact and Recovery
- 40:11 Facilitating Donations at a Higher Level
- 45:09 Resilience Response
- 52:57 #Undaunted
There is no doubt that donations make a big impact in disaster response. But we can still amplify the effect of our good deeds! Learn how we can close the gap between impact and recovery with @JenGrayThompson and Jim Alvey, the VP of Disaster Recovery and Philanthropy @good360. #Recover #Rebuild #Reimagine #NorthBay #podcast #wildfire #DisasterRecovery #AfterTheFire #Season4 #HowToDisaster #Good360 #charity #donationmanagement #partnerships #insurance #socialgood #undaunted
05:19 “Executing a simple idea and having a simple idea are very different things.” -Jennifer Thompson
10:59 “There’s a sexiness around response to the urgency of the impact, and then people lose their attention span. It’s not just people— companies, foundations forget that long-term work is the hardest part and the longest part.” -Jim Alvey
12:34 “There’s a changing set of needs that happens in that timeframe between response and recovery that is critical to pay attention to.” –Jim Alvey
15:40 “We’re going back to the ‘right goods, right people, right time’— the time part is the key here. Those goods probably could have been helpful at another time.” -Jim Alvey
18:34 “Your need to give cannot outweigh their need to receive. You can’t put your own needs ahead of their people.” -Jennifer Thompson
19:16 “What they don’t need, they won’t use— we need to hold still for a second and then fill in the gaps where it’s needed.” -Jim Alvey
22:01 “Nothing beats reaching out to nonprofits to ask them what they need, and then reaching out to donors and saying, ‘what do you have?'” -Jim Alvey
40:59 “[Helping] is a passion that goes deep. If we could steer that passion towards funding for the nonprofits that needed to do what they know they need to do, we can facilitate product donations at a much, much higher level.” -Jim Alvey
45:51 “Proactive— don’t sit and wait for something to happen before doing something.” -Jim Alvey
46:06 “Needs based— don’t send anything until you’ve confirmed that somebody needs what you want to send.” -Jim Alvey
46:16 “Educational— whatever you learned is to be shared.” -Jim Alvey
47:40 “Build resilience into the recovery— do not just hope that things will work out better next time.” -Jim Alvey
53:46 “It’s important that those of us in this space are undaunted by the challenges.” -Jennifer Thompson
Jim Alvey is the Vice President of Disaster Recovery and Philanthropy at Good360, a nonprofit organization which leads global distribution of donations through partnerships with socially responsible companies. Jim’s work includes cultivating partnerships with foundations and companies to expand the organization’s product donor network, increase nonprofit sector collaboration, and connect with different government agencies. He focuses on medium to long-term disaster recovery efforts.
- LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jimalvey
Connect with Good360:
- Website: https://good360.org/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Good360.org
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/good360
- Instagram: http://instagram.com/good360usa/
- LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/good360
- Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCItn_VoR1grL7MqOWFgAArA
Jennifer Gray Thompson: Welcome once again to The How to Disaster Podcast where we help you recover, rebuild and reimagine. My name is Jennifer Gray Thompson, and I am the CEO of After The Fire.
Today’s guest is Jim Alvey. Jim Alvey is Vice President for corporate relationships in disaster for a very cool national nonprofit called Good360. It’s a very simple but effective model. Essentially what they do is they match. Good360 matches corporate donations with areas of need. In particular, he sends out large donations, mostly goods to vetted nonprofits. Jim in particular is in charge of disaster, which is why we’re having him on today. He’s going to talk to you about how he came to do this work, what he likes most about it, and what are the challenges. Donation management is actually one of the hardest things to do in a disaster. We’ve already done a podcast in case you missed it with Jacob Bentz. He was talking about doing donations and managing them on the local level. Good360 really takes that same sort of model and approach, and they do it nationally for disasters. And that’s what Jim does, so I’m very happy to have him on today. If you want to know more about Jim Alvey or Good360, please look for the links which will be in the description. And thank you once again for spending this time with us. We really appreciate it.
Once again, welcome, Jim Alvey, to The How to Disaster Podcast.
Jim Alvey: Thank you so much. Great to be here.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: Yeah, I’m very happy to have you. And before we go any further, I do want to give a shout out to our mutual person that we like so much, Jen Thompson, because I have a feeling that she’s maybe the only one that she hears, but I have a feeling she’ll tune into this. I’ve known Jen for about 17 years since 2005 when I was working for Nielsen. She was working for Nielsen and were desperate right for each other. So
Jim Alvey: I still can’t get over that. So we know we’ll have at least one audience member because Jen will be watching, and she will also probably drag my sister, Terry, so that’d be two.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: Good. I like to call her the original Jen Thompson. So shout out to Jen and Terry, thank you for listening. We love this connection. Okay. So Jim, you work for this really cool organization called Good360. Tell us about it.
Jim Alvey: Well, I’d love to talk about Good360. How much time do we have?
Jennifer Gray Thompson: All the time you need.
Jim Alvey: Oh, good. Great. Actually, I feel very, very fortunate to have found Good360 or Good360 found me, either way. It’s a nonprofit, it’s a 501C3. It’s been in existence longer than you would expect because you probably haven’t heard of Good360 before, it’s been around since 1983. And it’s kind of a really cool niche. Only a couple of other nonprofits do what we do, which is make it easy for companies to donate products and match them up with nonprofits that need them. Pretty simple in concept, right? So it gets a lot more complicated, particularly in disasters, which we’ll focus on. But Good360, if we have a mission, we want to help close need gaps. We call them need gaps, or anything in a community or in the world that has two sides to it, where there’s a lot on one side and not enough on the other. And that’s definitely the case with products. There’s way more products than any anybody on this earth could ever use in their lifetimes. And then there’s also desperate need, even in communities where we live whether it’s veterans, domestic violence, child education, wellness, lots of lots of need gaps. And those can often be helped, at least by products being donated.
“Executing a simple idea and having a simple idea are very different things.” -Jennifer Thompson
So we encourage our companies, fantastic partners from all different kinds of retailers and manufacturers to choose shingles, I say, and everything in between. And those get donated on a regular basis or as needed by them to clear warehouse space and often more and more strategically where they want to do good. They want to use what they have as a way to help close those need gaps. Then the other side is that there are over a hundred thousand nonprofits that have worked with us at some time during those 38 plus years. And they are constantly looking for ways to stretch their budgets. Nonprofits work on shoe strings. If they can get products donated to them that they don’t have to go by, it’s more than a gift. It really helps them to do something else in their community because they’re just gonna put that money back into programs. So finding out who’s out there making sure they are who they say they are in terms of being vetted nonprofits, really critical for us, and then finding out what they need and then giving them and lots of different ways to access those donated products that we can talk about as we go forward. But that really is kind of make it easy for companies to donate and match up with nonprofits that need those exact products.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: And I think it should be said that while, yes, it’s a simple idea, and I love it. I love a nonprofit. A very simple idea, but executing a simple idea. And having a simple idea are very different things. And so sometimes, people have an idea, and then they go into the actual like, how do you do this in a way that you don’t send ice skates to Puerto Rico? After Hurricane Maria, which absolutely happened. How do you do that and make sure that all sides are being served appropriately? And you work in one of the toughest spaces, which is a disaster. Can you talk about that?
Jim Alvey: Disaster definitely is the toughest of the spaces just because it’s such a moving target. And it’s so critical to thread that needle that you talked about. We’ve actually coined a phrase around it that has a mantra. I go to bed saying it. I know I’ve gotten you to say it, the right goods to the right people at the right time. And we really do live by that. I mean, each one of those pieces has something important around it. We make sure that it’s the right goods. Meaning that is not what you just described. We’ve got all kinds of crazy stories from winter coats being sent to Africa, to birth control and Viagra being said as donations, all kinds of crazy stuff. Not necessarily the right products for any kind of disaster.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: For someone, sure. But I was wondering, how did they get Viagra donated?
Jim Alvey: Will get to that segment too.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: Yeah, yeah. That’s crazy. So how did you come to do this work, though? How did you end up in this position?
Jim Alvey: So my background for me is primarily in media, working for Arbitron Ratings now owned by Nielsen. So working on that side of things always wanted to be that talking head announcer but that wasn’t to be. So found other ways to participate in media, but television, the ratings industry, and then lastly, in media around newspapers, and community newspapers, in particular. Really love that aspect of newspapers, that’s a very, very challenging industry right now as everybody knows. So I had to find something new. And then stead of doing what I had been doing, I tried to utilize the same skill set for something else, and Goos360 just kind of popped up. And it’s absolutely been perfect. The same kind of selling that I was trying to do before is actually partnership skills. So finding out what a partner, a company wants to do, what they have, what they’re trying to accomplish, and then finding a way to make that happen for them too so that they can do something good. And that’s been really, really rewarding for me.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: So in the space of disaster, which is also breaking news, I guess you got there in that sense. What’s one of your most moving experiences with matching that need to give with that need to receive?
Jim Alvey: Yeah. There’s a recent effect to that, of course, because there’s so many active disasters now. Just being able to do something, anything for Ukraine in that response, which is a totally different disaster. Man made completely. It’s a war. But being able to have products that were able to be bought from wherever they were in the United States, multiple locations over to Poland and other countries, and then actually into Ukraine, I get goosebumps thinking about it because the need is so desperate there for such a wide audience. And unfortunately, being one of those disasters that is so different that people are going to kind of forget that there’s an actual war going on right now. So not to focus on that, because it’s timely. I would say that actual work that we’ve done in fires because we’ve been trying so hard to help with wildfire recovery response is tough because it’s, especially with fire, so fast, but long term recovery efforts are out in California.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: Wildfire is just a little bit different from a peril. And I think that that’s been one of the challenges for a lot of national partners is to really learn their way through space. We’re also well versed in wind and rain. We even know what to expect after an earthquake. But wildfire in the end happened. We’ve had 32 million acres burned since 2017 alone in this country, and I think that one of the things that we noticed right away was that a lot of the offers of goods and services came immediately. And part of the problem is when it’s all gone, it’s all burned down there. There’s nothing left to muck. There’s nothing left. It’s all ash, oily ash. And then that takes 6 to 12 months to even clean up. And then you start the process of craps rebuilding. So a lot of times what people need is two to three to four years out. How do you approach that?
“There’s a sexiness around response to the urgency of the impact, and then people lose their attention span. It’s not just people— companies, foundations forget that long-term work is the hardest part and the longest part.” -Jim Alvey
Jim Alvey: Yeah. You’ve taught me so much in the short time we’ve known each other about the difference of fire as a disaster. All disasters are not created equal. There’s a lot of attention rightfully paid to hurricane season, which we’re in the middle of, and we’re certainly going to see activity. But it’s almost like everybody waiting for the start of a race like they’re waiting for that. Meanwhile, as our team was talking about this morning in terms of trying to preposition products for hurricanes and hurricane season, where fire season for the West Coast has just expanded around to almost a full year event, there’s almost no way to preposition product because products are needed all the time. We have a donation of water that’s made available, and we’re gonna send it to our partners in Oroville so that they can utilize it. That’s not prepositioning. They’re going to take that water and get it distributed to survivors, for firefighters, for those active in work, for fires that are active right now. But your question is really good about the long term because that’s the forgotten part about disaster. There’s sort of a six sexiness around response, the urgency of the impact, and then people lose their attention span. It’s not just people. Companies, foundations forget that the long term work is really the hardest part. And the longest part takes months and years. We’re still working in recovery for fires from 2017 in California, and that’s because of what you described. Fires are different from floods. Flood, you can remediate the mold that’s occurred in a house from a flood and then put it back into a position where the structure can be utilized again. When you see a fire impacted area, there is nothing left. In fact, as you taught me, it’s worse than that. The ground at a time is now toxic. You can’t do anything with it.
So the differences in complexity around fire is just so deep. But what we found is that there are partners willing to do that as a nonprofit partner, so we’re willing to hang out there and work with what we call a long term recovery group. The people that actually live there need to have their communities rebuilt, and figure out how to do that. Those are the folks we love to work with because they’re there, they’re committed for life, they’re there to help themselves and their neighbors. And so we find ways to do that, whether it’s with rebuilding products, literally from the ground up, from the base to the shingles on the ceiling if we can provide roofing materials to do that. But also those in between products where you mentioned that early response of water and clothing that shows up even not asked for. There’s a changing set of needs that happens in that timeframe between response and recovery that is critical to pay attention to, and we try to do that.
“There’s a changing set of needs that happens in that timeframe between response and recovery that is critical to pay attention to.” –Jim Alvey
Jennifer Gray Thompson: Till you go through it, understanding donation management as a potential boon or a secondary disaster is something that we’ve talked about a lot. I interviewed this really great, he’s amazing in Santiam Canyon, which I know you’re up in there, Jacob Bentz. He actually put up college after the Santiam Fire, and he could work in recovery. And he managed their local donation site. I’m glad that we have that podcast, and then you’re in the national even global donation management. I should connect you with him.
Jim Alvey: Oh, please do. We always say that disaster recovery is at a local level. It’s local, local. Yes, it’s super helpful for the national nonprofits like Good360, and our national friends at Team Rubicon, and the American Red Cross Salvation Army, the list goes on. But if they don’t live there, they don’t live there. So the local work that happens after the cameras leave, after the initial response work is done is so critical to have experts on the ground that know what’s going on and who’s doing what. So to have a youngster, I’ll say, in the midst, kind of passionate about it and doing something about it, donations management is hard. It’s hard.
“We’re going back to the ‘right goods, right people, right time’— the time part is the key here. Those goods probably could have been helpful at another time.” -Jim Alvey
Jennifer Gray Thompson: I think it’s good for people to have lanes and disasters. It’s good to learn the other lanes and collaboration is absolutely key. It’s really key to say, hey, you will take this piece, I’ll take this piece and then we can effect that change and the impact that we want to see together so much better. One of the things I love about Good360 though, I think you are uniquely positioned to actually help in wildfire for the really long term that you are not afraid of long term service. If you have 50 couches two years later, I know you can call me and I’ll put you in any fire community that you would want and build those relationships directly to like you’re already doing, but there aren’t a lot of nonprofits in that space that have that very practical ability to do it without overloading the local community. Because what we see is, the CampFire was the worst example. We’d already experienced it here, of course. But in the Camp Fire, I remember pulling up in Chico, the Walmart parking lot in the field next to it was full. And by now, most of the fire people who lost everything have actually moved into temporary housing. But there was a large population there that was not affected by the CampFire directly. And then there the largest, like a shipping container like 40 feet by 20 feet tall overflowing with clothes headed for the landfill. It’s an ecological issue. And this is why if you’ve got that skill and you understand it, and you are Good360, why Good360 is so important in that space.
Jim Alvey: Yeah, you’re nailing it. And again, we’re going back to that right goods, right people, right time. So the time part is, the key here is those goods probably could have been helpful at another time. If there had been some thought around working with nonprofits on the ground that were working with families and what do they need, maybe they needed those clothes once they got settled in, they had what they had. And now, they need more for the next season. It’s that kind of thoughtfulness that we try to bring to the table. The stats around this are fairly staggering, and it’s been reconfirmed. Good360 is kind of reconfirm it again this year, that over 60% of the products donated in disaster end up in a landfill. Again, it’s because of the opposite. They’re the wrong goods to the wrong people at the wrong time. So just a little bit of thought behind. Do they really need this? Or am I just cleaning out my closet or my warehouse to send this product there. The other thing is, you’ve touched on it a couple of times, what in our area we call unsolicited goods. Meaning, nobody asked for this.
“Your need to give cannot outweigh their need to receive. You can’t put your own needs ahead of their people.” -Jennifer Thompson
So you see on the news reports, and gotta love the media was in it, right? But what they try to do is get something out there that’s attention getting and dramatic, and not necessarily the full story. So when they announced in the Kentucky tornadoes that they need water, and those poor kids need some toys, they are still dealing with the aftermath of what you described. Warehouses full of bottled water, warehouses full of toys. Yes, those toys could be utilized elsewhere in the nation, but that becomes a problem that somebody else has got to deal with. And in the midst of that reaction to that tornado that also along like fire destroyed buildings, they’ve got to deal with toys that they have too many of and water that they have in surplus. So it’s not just a minor issue. It’s a huge issue. It’s what we call the second disaster because that second disaster caused by people thoughtlessly sending things that were not asked for solicited means that no nonprofits, and specifically, I need to have this volume of these things. It’s just dropped off. We hear about every disaster, we’re sending truckloads of blankety blank, let us know who needs them. Who needs him first before you come with your trucks. So that’s something.
“What they don’t need, they won’t use— we need to hold still for a second and then fill in the gaps where it’s needed.” -Jim Alvey
Jennifer Gray Thompson: I just want to sit in that message for so long. Because after we had our wildfires and we saw it, then of course, in other wildfires, people wanted to help especially from hearing from other areas and on social media. They’re like, I’m taking this truck up and I like, did they ask for it, though? I remember the person got a little bit upset with me. I was on social media, of course,, and I was like, the thing is that your need to give cannot outweigh what they need to receive. So you can’t put your own needs ahead of their people. Okay, you got that? But that’s what happens though is that they, it comes from the right human condition to give, and it’s hard to be patient when you really want to help me feel helpless watching people suffer. You cannot inflict that upon them and then make them suffer more because that was every contention.
Jim Alvey: Sort of fits into that whole feeling of excess where they’ll probably need this. So we’ll just send it. We have too much so we’ll send it to them. What they don’t need, they won’t use. They have no idea what the volume of that translates to. And again, it’s not just individuals who love them who have passion. They want to do something. We all want to do something when we hear about something like the floods that are occurring right now in Mississippi. We’re getting flooded with requests to do something. Turns out, we need to hold still for a second to make sure the government doesn’t take care of everything, and then fill in the gaps where it’s needed. A little bit of time in between makes a huge difference. And again, at a larger level individuals versus companies who have warehouses full of truckloads of things, please, please, please make sure you’re reacting to a need that’s been stated on the ground.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: Huge. One of the things that’s really helpful in a disaster is donations. You have physical donations. And if people want to give money, then it’s also okay. I’m not one for like, don’t pay your nonprofit people. You know what I mean? That seems to be a big measure of it. But we got gas cards, we got gift cards for places that don’t even exist here too so that’s just a waste. That’s another waste of resources. I’m actually really happy that I learned when we were at that conference together a few weeks ago at the US Chamber of Commerce, and that the National VOAD, and Red Cross are working with a digital platform like a digital wallet for disaster survivors so that all of the donations can actually go on there, onto one card, on your wallet and on your phone. And that will avoid that sort of thing. Well, here’s $5,000 in gift cards, 1,000 of which are for like a Dillards, or something we have here.
“Nothing beats reaching out to nonprofits to ask them what they need, and then reaching out to donors and saying, ‘what do you have?'” -Jim Alvey
Jim Alvey: Yeah. Many disaster conferences have been attended. I’ve only been in this space for just over six years. There’s kind of a silver bullet that everybody comes to, which is if we only had a platform where nonprofits could tell what they need, and donors can say what they have, it sounds so easy and so perfect. So Good360 tried that, other partners have tried that. And what happens is, everybody’s got to participate. So you’ve got to have all the nonprofits participating. Or you’re missing some of the needs, and you may be duplicating services. And on the other side, donors rarely have time, companies, to identify somebody who’s going to sit down and enter their donations into a portal. They need help. So Good360 tried to help with that. For the welcome US platform for African evacuees, that was pretty successful. Our company’s donors tell us what they wanted to donate, we put that information in, and then nonprofits could reach out. But it’s still really clumsy and awkward. Nothing beats so far reaching out to nonprofits to ask them what they need, and then reaching out to donors and saying what you have put together. Good360 is kind of a secret sauce. They want to make all that happen. Because otherwise, you just got the two sides that are not talking to each other very effectively.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: I think that we do want to do the right thing, but the nonprofit space can get really complicated in a disaster because the inputs are so critical that your donor base wants to see them. So everybody sort of rushes into the sexiest space which you referenced before. The most immediate disaster, they will get their content. It’s not that they’re trying to be bad people, but it’s sort of required by the donors. And that actually breaks down collaboration at the same time because everyone’s trying to get the same shot essentially.
Jim Alvey: Well, it’s so true. On that side, you’ve got the media trying to get that attention that they were the news breakers about something that, unfortunately in many cases, something went wrong. So that’s what they’re trying to identify. And people are interested in human drama, right? There’s no two ways about it. So that is interesting. But gosh, I wish there are more stories about those in between phases of here’s the good that’s being done and the hard work that has to take place, whether it’s mucking, and gutting, or shoveling out very dangerous toxic materials so that a house can be rebuilt. Who’s talking about that where people put their lives on the line? And yes, firefighters working to control blazes, that’s both impactful, important, and also sexy. So people want to say that somebody’s out there risking their life to help them, so that should be covered. But it’s the aftermath part that just deserves so much more. You’ve mentioned something about technology, and I want to drop that point. I am really happy that the American Red Cross is focused on a disaster hub. We hope to participate in that at some point. We just have to make sure that all the data points are all fair, safe, equitable.
Again, it’s helping not hurting, that we’re all in. So we want to kind of get that back on the table for discussion that all the major nonprofits that are active, if we’re all in, we’re all using the same technology. That’s a perfect situation. But if we’re not all, then we’re likely to have a situation where the nonprofit that needs something isn’t just going to ask one person or one company. They’re going to ask everybody for what they need because they hope that somebody will give it to him. So it’s all got to be connected really tightly. We are seeing great advances in technology. I know you’ve seen it in California round mat detection of a mapping of fires and information on containment. Also, crisis cleanup does a wonderful job around data, around structures damage. Their whole thing is identifying what structures, homes and commercials have been impacted by this disaster. And are they destroyed, damaged, is somebody assigned to work on that and help get that fixed and track that along? Love the use of technology. I think more of that needs to be employed.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: I love the tech space too. It’s something that we’re super interested in in After The Fire, and I’m really pleased by so many technological advances that are coming along in the way of materials that are more resilient for any peril. Very excited about that, and detection for wildfires. We actually have had a lot of fires this year, but they’ve all been put out. We haven’t had our hot wind season yet, which is coming up. But I’m a little nervous. We’re all a little nervous. It’s been a little too quiet this year. We’ve not seen it quite like that. But I do think that, in particular with Good360, that it would be really interesting in wildfire to see you use the technology and use the platform to highlight what a wonderful story it is to go into a community. Two years later, especially renters, renters often don’t have renter’s insurance. They think they’re covered under their landlord if the house burns down, but that is absolutely not true. They are not covered so they are left with absolutely nothing. So that’s a huge gap in the market too, I feel like you guys are very unique in filling those gaps. I would love to see even more stories about how in year two and three, Paradise is only 10% rebuilt four years later.
Jim Alvey: Four years later, yeah. And very, very well publicized as an event discussed. It was a named event or one of those that nobody even heard of. Highly discussed immediately, it’s still only 10% in four years. That’s really, really sad. A certain point in time, folks fingers are too late. They’re not going to go back, the community is not there. I’m not saying that’s having a Paradise, but the statistics show that if you don’t get a community back up and running within six months, it’s not likely to rebound. And I mean like the businesses, commercials, your grocery store, your laundry, all the places that people will be utilizing. If they’re not back, then that town has a very, very slim chance of rebounding. So it’s that urgency to get the right rebuilding and the right pace is about saving the whole community, not just rebuilding one entity.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: I think there are also some great opportunities around building materials like you’ve talked about. So what comes up for you? What kind of things get offered that are super helpful in the rebuilding process that you’ve seen?
Jim Alvey: And if it’s okay, we’ll name a partner. Only because they’ve been, our relationship has grown from simply providing some funding to do what we do. GAF is the company, they’re North America’s largest shingles supplier who I never heard of before I started working with them. Most people probably don’t know that the shingles on their roof probably came from GAF. But what GAF has done is focused on all the different ways that a company can help. So I’ll get to the technology part of it. Don’t forget to remind me to talk about that. But in the meantime, they’ve gone from just providing some funding, to providing some shingles, to providing warehouse space where we can store those shingles, to providing products through the employee volunteer events where they do kidding events for hygiene kits and cleanup products, to also now education. They’re part of our disaster recovery council. But on their own, they’re focusing on getting the word out about more resilient building, fortified building practices. And then one further step where they’ve got the first two different technologies here, solar powered shingles, and also fire resistant. Fire resistant shingles.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: You’re speaking my language.
Jim Alvey: That’s why I love these guys. Like the class A of a partnership where they’ve listened to what we’re saying, hearing the needs and responding in all those all those different ways. Gosh, if all the companies in our country react the same way, we’d be in a different place.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: May I say I love everything about that, especially because there’s the term blue tarp. So this is a different peril. This is because of wind and rain events that many times people are able to go back and live in their homes even in substandard conditions. And in Puerto Rico in particular, they had about 42 or 52% in ad hoc housing. Lots of blue tarps, and they had a huge amount of work to do to really document who needed what. I really commend the people on the ground in Puerto Rico who have done a remarkable task over the past several years. But just that thing, though, of providing something more resilient, most people don’t know until you experience a disaster that under insurance is chronic. It’s not an issue for some people, it’s almost universally an issue. About 70% of people after a disaster are under insured. And we also see uninsured and that’s where the Mennonites come in. Some of the volunteer groups that have to do volunteer rebuilds, and so we actually pull them out according to, was it like it was a super rural or frontier community where there was multi generational housing where they did fine on $25,000 a year. They had no mortgage, they had no insurance, and then a wildfire came through. And all of a sudden, they are just another person in America trying to get by on $25,000 a year without a home and without a way back. And having people like GAF actually not only provide something that is going to bring down the cost of rebuilding, but that is also more resilient. I really want to focus on that, because I think there’s a huge market for that, a huge opportunity for other companies.
Jim Alvey: I agree. It’s not just something that’s nice to say or that’s really cute. There’s money to be saved here from insurance, to rebuilding, to out of people’s pockets. And underinsured means that somebody gambled. They had a chance to get the insurance they needed. Everybody’s on a tight budget, and those that are on tighter than usual will go for the lower option if they can. Just pray that nothing happens, and then they’re trapped because they’ve been under-insured for fire or flood. They’re not going to be able to replace what they lost. What I’ve learned in space, unbanked and underbanked, which I hadn’t heard about before. So (inaudible) is a lifeline, a kind of a FinTech, nonprofit 501C3, and they’ve been working alongside us. They deal with distribution of money as opposed to distribution of products. Same thing occurs where there are many in our society who either don’t have a bank, don’t know what to do with the check, or don’t know how to receive any funding that comes through anyway other than cash or underbanked. Meaning that they have some access to bank facilities, but very, very little. And so those folks who the government’s trying to help by writing checks are really kind of stuck there. Their only option is to get a check and then go to a place that’s going to take 25% of it.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: That’s called predatory lending.
Jim Alvey: Yes. Once you start to open your mind up to all the regular processes that we’ve built around insurance and writing checks, you find out that we’re indiscriminately discriminating. We’re basically cutting out a large portion of the survivor world because they don’t have what everybody assumes that everybody else has. So it was just another eye opener for me that we got to dig deeper and not just assume that everybody’s going to be able to receive things, whether it’s money or product in the same way. We have product donations that fit in the same pattern.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: Obviously, COVID changed a lot of things. For better, people will get on camera now for Zoom, and we don’t have to drive all over the place anymore in the same way. But I think that it has sort of opened people’s eyes more and more to who’s an unnecessary worker and how we experienced that. I call that a mismanaged disaster. It was a catastrophe, but how we experienced society and our place in it, I think that we were all sort of captive at home and looking how that would affect it. It also slows down rebuilds for fire beef because of supply chain issues, which look like they’re about to be better because of some recent legislation. That’s all I’m gonna say, should help that.
Jim Alvey: We’re gonna go like this?
Jennifer Gray Thompson: I’ve already gotten a call from an electric company saying, hey, the inflation reduction act is a game changer for actually getting this out. It’s green energy into people’s hands who need it. I talk to anyone, I could go on and on. I get overly excited. One of the things, just to go back to the insurance piece really quickly, what people don’t think about if they haven’t been through wildfire disaster and they haven’t seen that sort of level of destruction is, all of a sudden, like in Sonoma County, we had to rebuild nearly 6,000 homes, and about 5,999 of those people never intended on building a home. They bought a home. They are not home builders, they have other lives to do. And so it raises the cost even more during code with supply chain issues. Plus, when you have a situation where people are like in Boulder County, the Fire Marshal Fire, where even if they were adequately insured, everything else externally is making that process really, really difficult. Again, companies, I’m not companies, but nonprofits like yours really go in and solve a very, they mitigate suffering. That’s what we do. That’s what we do. Well, we mitigate suffering,
Jim Alvey: And one of our partners, SVP, says resilience is closing that gap in time between impact and recovery. I love that because it’s really what we’re all trying to do together. SVP all hands and hearts love the volunteer groups really get it because they’re on the ground, working with people. One of the things that they’re doing that they found has been needed is to get that assistance that you’re talking about. Nobody goes to school to learn what to do after your house burns down, or is flooded, or roof pulled off by a hurricane. We don’t know what to do. So knocking on doors literally and saying, can we help you? What do you need? What’s happened? And finding out ways that they can handhold a little bit to get some forms submitted to state and federal to try to get some money back. Because if you don’t like the government anyway, and then you’re gonna have to fill out a form and share some information, you’re not really likely to love doing that. But having those kinds of hands on approaches is really, really, really needed. Lots of folks are more fortunate to have insurance that gets taken care of on their behalf, but there are populations that we need to be aware of that need that handheld.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: They need the handheld, they need the volunteer rebuild. The (inaudible) fire last year in Eldorado County near Lake Tahoe got a lot of attention while it was going on. And grizzly flats was in the news small community, less than 300 people, 70% were uninsured not under, no insurance whatsoever, and their community foundation reached out just to talk about the issue. And the hard thing is that, we love SVP, they do amazing work in a wildfire. There’s no door to knock on.
Jim Alvey: Their mobile homes, I believe.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: That takes about a year. There’s no rapid rehousing right now for wildfire, and you can’t be rehoused in that space anyway. Because again, toxic. These are mega fires, they burn really, really hot. So unlike a house fire where you can probably keep your foundation, and maybe your car didn’t burn down in a mega fire, it burns much hotter than a regular house fires.Everything has to go. You cannot sell a house with a compromised foundation on it. It makes the whole space just a little bit more difficult, which is why you kind of hope for a tech solution. And this is another reason why though in the underinsured space, the uninsured space, most people have to use the contents of their insurance to actually rebuild. And then they rely on donations in order to furnish their home. It’s a story I’ve heard many, many times.
Jim Alvey: I think I may have told you this when we met at the chamber that Terry and I, my sister and I and the rest of our family experienced the fire, house fire, when I was in 5th grade. And it was actually very helpful in what I’m doing now to know, in our case, the structure was not completely destroyed. They were able to build. In fact, my dad used some insurance money to actually add on a kitchen. Okay, but that’s a whole nother story. So we were okay, but we tried to hold on to as many personal possessions as we could. And to this day, those items smell like smoke. So even if things don’t burn up in your house, if you have a fire, you’re gonna need to replace them or deal with the constant reminder that your house burned down. It’s the smoke aspect of products that is on talked about. But I can tell you from personal experience, you’re going to want to save just those really family heirloom type stuff and then replace everything else.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: Everything. There is a major national company that gets big contracts and goes in, and they can clean to a certain extent. You cannot remove that. But we’ve seen this a lot, actually, in the Marshall Fire in particular, a lot in Santa Cruz to which most of our houses just burned down. That was it. But the secondary smoke damage is huge. It’s very hard for people in that situation to actually get assistance. They fight with their insurance company and then their insurance company will say, hey, send it out to the company to be professionally cleaned. And then it comes back and it’s still destroyed, and it can take months even when they come into your house. Again, just a wonderful space for Good360 to be in because you’ll help the entire community to which it’s just so important because it’s a traumatizing event. I’m sure you were traumatized at 10.
“[Helping] is a passion that goes deep. If we could steer that passion towards funding for the nonprofits that needed to do what they know they need to do, we can facilitate product donations at a much, much higher level.” -Jim Alvey
Jim Alvey: Absolutely. You just don’t think about it. My parents weren’t prepared for what they had to do to replace what we lost, much less the fear of losing a life in it. We were very fortunate on all those fronts. But it also taught me, our neighborhood responded immediately while the house was on fire. There were people walking down the street with bags of clothing, toys, belts and all kinds of other stuff, which was my first lesson in unsolicited goods. That alone, they were trying to do something. But most of those clothes didn’t fit. We didn’t want them. Toys were broken, but that’s what happened. People all the time, we got to do something for this family that just lost everything. I’ve seen it firsthand, and it’s a passion that goes deep. If we could just steer that passion towards funding for the nonprofits that needed to do what they know they need to do so that we can facilitate product donations at a much, much higher level. It’s part of our nature to want to help immediately.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: Such important messaging. The last few years of disasters have been, really very much nonstop, some people would look at that space and think, well, I’m exhausted by that. But then there are other people who are like, I’m just going to stare that down, figure out how to do it and meet cool people who also want to stare it down. Where do you see the next 5 to 10 years in this space going?
Jim Alvey: That’s a great point. We do a lot of talking about self care as we’re working 10 hour a day and beyond paying attention overly. I think we’re gonna need more therapists. I’m only half kidding about that.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: I’m not kidding.
Jim Alvey: Yeah. I think therapy is really super helpful in this space in particular, where you’re faced with a lot of negativity and heartbreak and you do the best you can. You work really, really hard at it. I’m very fortunate, our teams are very fortunate to be kind of out of the space where we help those on the ground. The people on the ground, the volunteers, the nonprofits, the firefighters and first responders, they’re face to face with this, and what a taxing thing physically and mentally to deal with. So I do think that there is growth that needs to happen in that space. There’s also a big focus recently on diversity and inclusion. You and I have talked about how the challenge is there, making sure that laws and regulations match up well with the needs in that particular community. But there’s gonna be a big focus on that, I think, in our space. And we just have to realize what looks nice on a calendar before with hurricane season, fire season and tornadoes in December. Just gonna have to give up on that and be ready all the time. September is National Preparedness Month, which started around 9 11, interestingly, and now has become more around hurricane preparedness. But what I’m advocating for is year round preparedness. Be prepared for anything, whatever you thought was gonna happen, throw it out. It’s gonna happen when you least expect it. Mother nature’s got tricks up her sleeve that we don’t even know about yet. And just being prepared for anything at all times is going to be the new way.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: How do you do resilience? How do you do equity? How do you do inclusion? I strongly believe that you have to walk into the community and ask, what do you need, and how can I help, because people know what they need. And they’re locally led and designed. Resiliency, recovery, rebuilding is key because they also know where the gaps are. Even when they don’t know and they’re in trauma, because I do go and deal with and then meet very traumatized communities. And even with my staff, I say to them, we might know all of the answers. We may not, but we cannot spew them all out because we have to make sure that they’re ready to hear that piece of it. And if you can stay with them for the long term, that immediately after the disaster, it’s unlikely that they, it’s such a life changing experience to undergo a disaster. It’s the made for TV movie you’ve never wanted to be in that you wouldn’t watch on Saturday night for any reason. And you’re not Brad Pitt, so it doesn’t matter anyway. You look at it entirely differently and it’s, you have to deal with the traumatic part of it. It’s very real.
Jim Alvey: It’s very harsh. The feelings that are around that, the psychological impact around loss, for people who physically got hurt or dealing with smoke inhalation–
Jennifer Gray Thompson: Lost a relative too.
“Proactive— don’t sit and wait for something to happen before doing something.” -Jim Alvey
Jim Alvey: The harshness of it is something that really, again, going back to the counseling. All kidding aside, there’s a loss there that needs to be dealt with for most people that are in there. If we have time, just really quickly talk about what you said, how do we do this resilience thing. And actually, we put some thought towards that. A couple of years ago, we worked with a set of nonprofits and companies and came up with what we call resilient response. And it’s an educational campaign that we try to get in front of as many companies as we can. And it’s got six tenants. We’ve talked about all of them on this podcast. Proactive, don’t sit and wait for something to happen. Before doing something, find out who your partners should be, who the government contacts are, for an individual planning ahead for what disasters might come your way.
So being proactive. Needs based. We’ve talked about unsolicited goods. Don’t send anything until you’ve confirmed that somebody needs what you want to sell. So needs based. Educational. So whatever you learned is to be shared. What we just were doing, we’ve learned some things in our space. But let’s tell as many people as we can, whether that’s consumers, or leaders, stakeholders of any kind of short and long term focus. So we’ve talked about the attention span that happens, I think Global Giving says that 80% of giving happens within the first six weeks of a disaster, and then nothing. Only 12% goes towards long term recovery. So for companies to say that I’m going to focus on those early responses, nonprofits, American Red Cross, Salvation Army, all those are going to be in that early phase. But I’m going to save something for the long term. So really building that into their strategy around how they focus on disaster is critical. Transparent, making sure that you talk about what it is that you’re trying to do, set goals for an organization, and then say whether you’ve met them or not. Sustainability fits into that in a big way.
“Needs based— don’t send anything until you’ve confirmed that somebody needs what you want to send.” -Jim Alvey
Jennifer Gray Thompson: But also say whether or not you met it, and then if you didn’t, then it’s okay to try something and fail. It’s okay.
Jim Alvey: Yeah. So that people know that it’s okay to fail. You’ll learn something in the process that you can then educate somebody else on, why didn’t you make your goal? Was it too high? Did you learn something about what you can’t do? And then the last thing is resilience in general. So building resilience into the recovery, not just hoping that things will work out better next time. But that fortified building that we talked about in a flood zone, raising up the home’s, building back with fire resistant materials where you can, putting in hurricane clips in your roof when you’re putting those in. Most people wouldn’t know what that is. But if you’ve been through hurricanes, you’re going to try to build back better. So that’s all those things kind of work together in what we call resilient response. We have companies pledged to it. We’ve got over 85 companies that have said, yep, we’re gonna try to do that, and we want more. So if any companies that want to sign up, just at no cost, it’s just a thought leadership space that we’re trying to get people to think a little more thoughtfully and strategically around disaster response and recovery.
“Build resilience into the recovery— do not just hope that things will work out better next time.” -Jim Alvey
Jennifer Gray Thompson: I know a wonderful woman in Australia named Renae Hanvin who started corporate2community about 12 years ago. She’s like the Australian version of like a B Corp, and I’d be happy to connect you with her. She just rebranded to be called Ready Resiliency, and she does a lot of that. She’s very smart. I would love to introduce you to her because I have so much respect for her. They have a lot of the same issues that we have here, especially with respect to wildfires. So she’s a great colleague and I can see how because you are a global brand, you know how that might work out well for everybody.
“Educational— whatever you learned is to be shared.” -Jim Alvey
Jim Alvey: We have a sister nonprofit with 360 Australia, so they kind of already so absolutely love to work with.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: We’ll just consider this like a part one. I’m very happy to know, I’ve known about Good360 only since our disaster, so 2017. But to actually understand the philosophy better, I’m always a fan of it. Like ToolBank USA, I love a simple model, but executed well. And it’s just so important in this work that if you set out to do something that you actually have the capability and the capacity to follow it all the way through. Yeah, because too often people who come in the beginning want to be heroes, and that’s just a pretty short lived service area.
Jim Alvey: Well, we’re so looking forward to having, we hear from our team at your After The Fire Summit because there’s so much we don’t know. We’re really engaged students right now, particularly for wildfires. We don’t know enough, we don’t have enough partners on the West Coast, we need to have more awareness of both the challenges and solutions. And I think that we can really make a difference. There is a Northern California VOAD that’s active, we’re connected with them. It’s a piece of the puzzle, but I feel like there’s some other pieces that are somehow not connected. And it’s a big state. You’ve got Oregon and Washington as well who are in Colorado now that are often on fire. So just kind of starting there with you and learning more about it is exciting for us.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: And anything you guys needed it anytime. I’m passionate about this. I’m the only wildfire person at national conferences. I know a lot of really smart people in this space, I’m so glad that you all are sending him to be here and learn. And we will always be at your disposal for whatever you need to learn more to connect with communities. It is a relatively new space in disaster. We’ve had wildfires before, but gosh, we’ve soaked. The need is so great and ongoing. And you said it before, it doesn’t matter if it’s December 30th. Colorado burned, and then they got a cyclone bomb the next day. And so since this is where we’re at being more resilient, I would love to work with you on magical thinking. I’ve not seen anybody solve that yet. Okay, that won’t happen in that space. But also, how do we get a company that wants to donate, like Vulcan Vents are really important. IBHS will be at the summit as well talking about wildfire hardening homes, and what are like the four elements that you need most. Anything that we can do to amplify that space and to help you achieve your mission, I’m all in on that. Just saying.
Jim Alvey: Oh, absolutely. Well, obviously, Mitchell here, in terms of what you’re doing, the technology piece that you’re going to bring into your summits is fascinating. Because again, if you don’t know, you don’t know. So finding that, elevating some of those creative minds and projects that are out there. But there’s just kind of that baseline work that has to happen first. Right now, we’re starting in the middle because there’s fires that are active and are going to be active. And there’s already communities, as we mentioned, that are in long term recovery. That temper sense that’s going to come to haunt me tonight for Paradise as a way to live for that period of time. There’s got to be faster activity on all EMS there. Otherwise, we’re going to lose communities, and that’s not going to be good for anybody. And those people live there, their public generations, they’re there. They don’t want to leave, they want to be there, and we’ve got to find ways to make that happen faster. Closing that gap between impact and recovery.
“It’s important that those of us in this space are undaunted by the challenges.” -Jennifer Thompson
Jennifer Gray Thompson: Really important that they had such a large population of seniors, and seniors are the least likely people to rebuild for that. There’s the trauma, and then there’s the cost. And if you’re not working anymore and depending on it, it was a very accessible community for people who didn’t have high incomes. When we talk about doing equity, there’s a perfect opportunity to figure out how to help. Now, it’s been four years, a lot of people, if they haven’t started now, they’re not coming back. But they do have a new community coming in. That part of it is wonderful, and they’re really dedicated people. So they have all the elements that they need, but it’s just gonna be a very long time. The entire town was also septic before. Okay, so just working on that. I think it’s important that those of us in this space are just undaunted by the challenges. So that means, what do we need to do for you then in order to get you home? Yeah, that’s the goal.
Jim Alvey: I’m drawn to this. It’s challenging because, again, in our brief huddle this morning on our disaster team, we focused on Jackson, Mississippi because it’s current and the news of the states. And following that discussion with Pakistan and the flooding there, that is going to affect millions of people. The difference between the two and the logistical challenges of trying to do something, anything to help in that country night and day. I’m a big believer in doing what you can do, and feeling okay about that, doing what you can do. We could feel bad that we’re not gonna be able to help as much as we’d like in Pakistan, but we’re going to do something. We’ve got partners already on their way there and they’re going to help us get involved. But the best we can do is the best we can do. So just try to stay with it and pacing ourselves as we sit along here with some self care, but not being adopted is a challenge.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: Yeah, it is a challenge. It’s true. I probably undaunted as part of a trauma response from having gone through. Okay, so this is how it’s going to be now. This is how it’s going to be, then I’m going to route for progress. Progress is going to be perfect in my book, and I’m not going to worry too much. If we can’t, I expect it to be a very long haul to have said that, though, that self care piece is so important. Certainly, I’ve had my own mental health journey over the past five years. I don’t even know. I didn’t even understand how traumatized I was the first year. I had high blood pressure and my doctor was like, what’s up with you? And then I was like, okay, got through the first year, so I must not be traumatized anymore. But I only realized this year that now I’m okay. I’ve seen 18 magnifiers since then, and I see it. And when I go there, I don’t relive my own trauma. I would listen, and I focus on humanity and the opportunity. And I think that that’s what’s going to actually get us through. But paying attention, though, means that you have to be consciously paying attention to what you focus on.
Jim Alvey: Alright, you have to realize that first year, whatever amount of time that is for that scar tissue to kind of develop and get you tougher and have your life back, and then focus on all the positives if you can. Everything is positive. Helping people just keeps us going. I wake up every day, and I can’t wait to get to, in my case, to my computer.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: Well, Jim, it’s such a pleasure. I’m so very happy to know you. But also, I’m excited for whatever comes next in the sense of how we can make an impact together. My favorite thing about space, and I did just sort of say it, I love the humanity that meets me on the ground in a disaster. I really, really adore the quality of the people that I actually get to meet in this space. I’m excited for a wildfire summit because I feel like I know all these cool people, you should all meet each other. I love that piece so much. And we want to do it every year. So hopefully next year, you’ll be able to make it directly. But again, I thank you so much for your time and your attention for all the work that you do.
Jim Alvey: Absolutely. Mutual admiration society already put it on my calendar for next year, so you better have it. So you’re looking forward to it. Just excited to have Jake being able to go. The work that you’ve done, the energy you’ve channeled into your from your trauma and your learnings to help other people is inspiring. So thank you for bringing me along.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: Thank you. All right. Well, this has been another episode of The How to Disaster Podcast. Thank you for joining us.