A new alliance in Houston is seeking to strengthen disaster recovery in the city and is getting a jump-start from a $1.5 million gift from two oil and gas companies.

The Greater Houston Disaster Alliance—a partnership between the Greater Houston Community Foundation and the United Way of Greater Houston—will work to bolster the social service network in the city with the goal of making disaster response faster, more effective and more equitable.

“With every disaster, we see that families and individuals who were already struggling to afford the basic necessities are disproportionately impacted when crisis strikes,” said Amanda McMillian, president and CEO of the United Way of Greater Houston, in a statement. “Recognizing the economic peril that many in our community face when disaster strikes, compels us to develop the most effective and equitable social service response that we can now."

Both nonprofits have played important roles in past disaster recovery efforts in Houston, including during Hurricane Harvey and the coronavirus pandemic. The alliance is made possible by a combined $1.5 million investment from the Houston-based petroleum refineries company Phillips 66 and the Calgary-based energy company Enbridge, according to a May 31 announcement. Each company has pledged to donate $250,000 a year for three years.

The two nonprofits are no strangers to each other, having partnered in the past on the Greater Houston COVID-19 Recovery Fund and on Winter Storm Uri recovery. The COVID-19 fund, founded as a way to raise money to help Houstonians with basic services through community-based nonprofits, provided more than $16 million through several rounds of grants.

The new Disaster Alliance represents the next phase in that partnership, according to a May 31 news release. According to the release, the seed funding from Embridge and Phillips 66 will go toward helping the alliance:
  • Develop faster and more effective ways to raise and deploy funds following a disaster
  • Enhance systems that support equitable access to recovery resources for vulnerable populations
  • Build a coalition of public and private leaders to strengthen region-wide resiliency in advance of disasters
In terms of preparation, some of the alliance's specific goals include:
  • Establishing an infrastructure that strengthens the ability for the alliance to lead a philanthropic response in the aftermath of a disaster
  • Pursuing partnerships with nonprofits to accelerate disaster relief and address service gaps
  • Promoting continuous learning among partners
  • Developing policies and practices to accelerate the creation of grants earlier on in the disaster response
  • Establishing a council of public-private leaders to align disaster resiliency and recovery strategies
The alliance will be led by a council—made up of community and business leaders with experience in disaster recovery in addition to the CEOs of core nonprofits—which will provide oversight of funds raised, according to the release. A separate council, called the Fund Leadership Council, will form following a large-scale disaster to support fast and effective fundraising for that event.