by Milessa Lowrie

   
  
   
  
    
  
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    Houston Texans player JJ Watt and teammates distribute relief supplies for victims of Hurricane Harvey. In three weeks, Watt raised over $37 million in disaster relief funds. ( Photo Credit: Brett Coomer, Pool Photo/USA TODAY Network)

Houston Texans player JJ Watt and teammates distribute relief supplies for victims of Hurricane Harvey. In three weeks, Watt raised over $37 million in disaster relief funds. (Photo Credit: Brett Coomer, Pool Photo/USA TODAY Network)

At Athletivate, we encourage our clients to be strategic and think long term in developing their community engagement plans. However, when the unexpected happens, nimbleness and flexibility are also a skillset that athletes bring to the table. As recent natural disasters have demonstrated, professional athletes and sports organizations have answered quickly and donated to disaster relief efforts directly in large volumes for communities where they are from, where they have played, or simply where they feel compelled to help. In several cases, with the assistance of new crowdfunding sites, athletes and sports organizations have also galvanized their fans to raise large sums in record time.

An especially harsh hurricane season is still upon us and recovery efforts for the recent earthquake in Mexico, hurricane in Puerto Rico, and wildfires in Northern California are just beginning. However, in other communities affected by natural disaster, including Texas and Florida, focus has transitioned from rescue and recovery to the long-term rebuilding effort it will take to get people out of shelters, rebuild their homes, and repair damage to infrastructure, schools, and businesses.

Now the implementing work for an Athletivist begins—and, as evidenced by the challenges faced by even the most experienced relief organizations, implementation is not always easy. Athletes with the large responsibility of wisely investing funds that the public has entrusted to them now have to ask: Where can I make the greatest impact? Which activities will achieve the best results? What are the root causes of the catastrophe and how can they be addressed? Which organizations and community leaders will be my best partners? How do I vet the organizations I will grant funds to? What role can public policy play in preventing future disasters? Should I lend my voice to efforts that may help cities affected by natural disaster become more resilient?

Natural disasters can feel like episodes when immediate action is needed—and they are.  But well after initial rescue efforts are concluded, the long and tiring work of rebuilding begins. Although we encourage our Athletivists to be nimble and responsive when necessary, we still ascribe to a philosophy that the greatest impacts can be derived from sustained efforts that are strategic and holistic. We hope to be part of the conversation and a bridge for athletes who want to make sure their efforts in the immediate aftermath of a natural disaster are leveraged for the long haul.