Financial institutions that serve low-income clients can be a literal life-line after a crisis, providing disaster relief and financial services to help clients rebuild their lives. Microfinance institutions and community banks are often best-placed to provide much-needed relief services during crisis. Here are a few ideas on how to combine financial services with disaster preparedness and education to reach underserved markets in your area.
Train staff for emergency protocols
Staff should be fully educated and rehearsed in preparing and securing buildings and offices as potential shelters, streamlining disaster relief operations before the crisis hits (when possible), and establishing a communication network to coordinate with government and charitable relief organisations. Team leaders and secondary team leaders should be designated and teams organised to mobilize in the immediate aftermath. Group preparedness drills also have the benefit of being fantastic team-building exercises.
Preparedness Education before a crisis hits
Disaster Management Preparedness classes and seminars for clients, other community members, and staff are effective tools to ready a community before a crisis. First-aid and disease avoidance training, communication networking, and disaster deployment plans are life-saving preparedness measures easily undertaken by trained staff and community members. Low-income clients are often the most vulnerable during natural disasters as they do not have the resources to leave an area before or after the crisis. Low-income community members would greatly benefit from classes in basic food and water storage, safe-shelter practices, and emergency medical care as well.
Serve the community, not just your clients
Everyone is affected by disaster and they look to community leaders to help them through the aftermath. Financial institutions play a very important role in repairing the damage to homes, businesses, income streams, and families. Members of the community, especially low-income members, need to know that they can trust their financial institutions to understand the difficulties involved with re-establishing financial stability. Relief efforts, whatever form they take, can have an added benefit to institutions. Many non-clients who receive aid are likely to choose to do future business with an institution that helped them in their time of need. Disaster aid should be available to all, not just clientèle.
Non-traditional financial assistance measures
A short-term moratorium on loan repayment rather than traditional loan restructuring, or a temporary suspension of interest charges for those affected clients can help them feel less stress and fear about rebuilding their finances. Small-scale insurance products can be developed to provide quick cash in a disaster situation for temporary rehousing, food, medical, and funeral needs. A community crisis system can be built to provide low-interest, quick-approval micro-loans to help cover immediate needs.
Through education, preparedness, and innovative financial leadership, neighbourhoods and communities can be rebuilt with speed, confidence, and a strong, lasting partnership with their community bank.