Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Lori Rogers Of Emergency Assistance Foundation (EAF) Is Helping To Change Our World
…We’ve seen everything from people in Ukraine during the humanitarian crisis, actively responding and even hosting refugees, to those affected by floods and other disasters around the world. It’s incredibly inspiring to witness the resilience of these individuals and how communities come together in support. We’re not just focusing on one individual, but rather how we’ve responded to various disasters and hardships and helped individuals + their families. This includes ongoing conflicts and natural disasters in the Middle East. It’s heartening to hear stories of people rallying to help others, especially in times of tragedy…
I had the pleasure of talking with Lori Rogers. Lori serves as the Vice President of Corporate Operations at Emergency Assistance Foundation (EAF). In this role, she collaborates with the senior leadership team to advance the organization’s mission, focusing on building relationships and educating about relief funds.
Lori began her career at an early age, engaging in community service through public service radio shows at the age of nine. She holds a degree in Public Relations and a minor in Special Education from the University of Florida. Her educational background emphasizes communication and inclusivity.
Throughout her career, Lori has gained experience in various fields including communications, event coordinating, radio, affiliate marketing, public relations, and franchising. Her work has involved coordination with C-level executives and managing donor relations activities for a national non-profit organization.
At EAF, Lori’s role involves working with Fund Partners — companies that collaborate with EAF to support their employees during difficult times, particularly following disasters or personal hardships. Her work is integral to facilitating financial assistance and recovery for individuals and families.
Emergency Assistance Foundation’s mission is to partner with companies to provide essential financial assistance to team members facing unexpected challenges. Operating globally, EAF administers over 350 relief funds, supporting more than 12 million employees in over 93 countries. The foundation is known for its ability to provide timely aid, leveraging technology and scalable platforms to enhance its effectiveness.
Yitzi: Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn about your background and origin story. Can you share a bit of your background, perhaps your childhood, and how it led you to this particular career path?
Lori: I’ve always been involved in jobs with a feel-good component of giving back. I started working at a young age for Radio Disney, back when it existed, which was a life-changing experience. I had the opportunity to be a Make-A-Wish granter during my childhood. Then I went to college and ventured into different career paths, including branding and licensing. Later, I returned to the nonprofit sector, working for the American Heart Association for a few years. That journey brought me to where I am now at Emergency Assistance Foundation, where I help guide and develop changes, all while still having the opportunity to help individuals in need.
Yitzi: You probably have a lot of fascinating experiences and memories. Can you share one or two of the most interesting stories that have happened since you began at Emergency Assistance Foundation?
Lori: Absolutely. Emergency Assistance Foundation is always fast-paced, growing, and changing, and we’re continually helping individuals and families in need. A standout experience was during the pandemic. As the pandemic unfolded, we traveled around the world, not literally, but by helping applicants from all over in different geographical locations as the virus spread. We had partners with individuals impacted in Wuhan, so before we fully understood the virus’s trajectory, we started receiving calls from our partners about what was happening there. We moved into Europe with them and eventually traveled the entire globe, helping team members who were unfortunately impacted.
Yitzi: It’s been said that sometimes our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Do you have a story of a humorous mistake that you made when you were first starting and the lesson that you learned from that?
Lori: I wouldn’t necessarily call it humorous, but a significant lesson I learned was about the prevalence of unbanked individuals (someone that does not have a checking or savings account with an insured (FDIC) institution) worldwide. Initially, I underestimated how widespread this issue was. It was eye-opening to see the geographical diversity of unbanked applicants and the challenge of meeting their varied needs, whether they are tech-enabled or not. It was a moment of realization for me, highlighting my lack of knowledge in this area and the importance of adapting our approach to meet people where they are, especially those facing financial difficulties.
Yitzi: Do you have a favorite life lesson quote? And how is it relevant to you, particularly in your life and your work?
Lori: One of my favorite quotes that someone shared with me when I first started working at nine years old is: ‘Make your vocation your vacation.’ My interpretation of it is you have to be passionate and enjoy what you’re doing, or you might not be very happy. If you believe in what you’re doing and feel compelled to make a difference, that’s key.
Yitzi: Can you share all the ways that Emergency Assistance Foundation is helping to make an important social impact, particularly in the United States, but also around the world?
Lori: Absolutely, Emergency Assistance Foundation has a global reach. We address unforeseen personal hardships that people worldwide face, such as domestic abuse, serious illnesses, injuries, or house fires in addition to disasters. Our goal is to support individuals and families during these difficult times to help alleviate their financial burdens. This impact is significant, considering the average American doesn’t even have $400 in savings for emergencies. Our partnerships, primarily with employer-sponsored groups, play a crucial role in making a difference in these challenging situations.
Yitzi: Can you share a story about someone who has been significantly impacted by your work, without mentioning any names?
Lori: Due to regulations like GDPR, when someone opts in as an applicant, they can share their story. Reading these stories can be quite intense, giving you full body chills, as they describe what the assistance means to them. We’ve seen everything from people in Ukraine during the humanitarian crisis, actively responding and even hosting refugees, to those affected by floods and other disasters around the world. It’s incredibly inspiring to witness the resilience of these individuals and how communities come together in support. We’re not just focusing on one individual, but rather how we’ve responded to various disasters and hardships and helped individuals + their families. This includes ongoing conflicts and natural disasters in the Middle East. It’s heartening to hear stories of people rallying to help others, especially in times of tragedy.
Yitzi: Let’s say somebody needs help, what are the parameters of how they can reach out to you and if they’re qualified? Can anyone reach out? Or does it have to be a particular disaster or a particular underserved campaign?
Lori: Most traditionally, we have a lot of employer-sponsored organizations. Domestic, international, multinational companies, they’ll reach out. They will set up a fund. We’re set up with a similar structure like a community foundation as each fund has a separate restricted chart of accounts. We work with well over 350+ organizations serving over 12 million individuals. We have also launched People First Fund, powered by Emergency Assistance Foundation, where in times of certain large-scale disasters, individuals who may not be associated with one of our fund partners can apply for grants. So, for example, during Maui, we had individuals who weren’t part of one of our fund partners charitable classes, meaning who is eligible to apply for a grant, that were able to apply if they lost their home due to the devastating fires. And we’re going to continue trying to do that because we understand there’s so many individuals, experiencing unforeseen events every day.
Yitzi: Are there a few things that the community, society, and the government can do to help you address the root problem you’re trying to solve?
Lori: That’s a great question. I think just bringing awareness that these types of initiatives exist is crucial. In the workplace, people are often more familiar with EAPs, Employee Assistance Programs. EAPs are important because they deal with mental well-being. Additionally, from a regulatory standpoint, what we administer are Field of Interest Funds. At Emergency Assistance Foundation, we act like financial first responders, offering financial support. It’s not as well-known, but it gained some traction during the pandemic when more people became aware of it. However, many organizations and individuals still don’t know that these different types of programs exist to help alleviate financial burdens.
Yitzi: In the context of a social impact enterprise, how do you define leadership? And if you can, maybe give an example of what you mean.
Lori: Another great question. For me, leadership is about empowerment. It’s about how we can inspire and empower people, how one person can make a difference, and getting everyone to feel collectively part of it. Leading isn’t just delegating; it’s about empowering people. This has a trickling, powerful effect, whatever that may look like.
Yitzi: Based on your experience and success, can you share five things you wish someone had told you when you first started your social impact work?
Lori: I think it’s crucial to utilize your voice no matter who is at the table. Everyone’s voice should be heard, and it’s okay to question things. I’m naturally inquisitive, so I ask a lot of questions. This isn’t to catch someone off guard but to understand more deeply. Collaboration is also vital. Connecting with someone doesn’t automatically mean you’re collaborating. It’s important that everyone actively participates. The power of cross-departmental work is key, especially in a company setting. Working in silos doesn’t get you far. Lastly, it’s okay to make mistakes. What matters is the risk involved and not just learning from these mistakes, but applying those lessons. Learning a lesson is one thing, but applying it is what truly counts.
Yitzi: You and your organization are highly influential. If you could start a movement or spread an idea that would bring the most good to the most people, what would that be?
Lori: That’s a tough question. I’d say getting to know someone on a human level is essential, no matter who they are or what they do. Be friendly to everyone and learn their story. If you can peel back the layers and get to know someone for who they are, regardless of their perceived level, it can be really inspiring. You can learn a lot from a stranger on the street or someone just sitting outside. A smile can go a long way in opening the door for a conversation.
Yitzi: How can our readers continue to follow your work online? How can they support what you’re doing?
Lori: There are several ways to support the work that Emergency Assistance Foundation is doing. You can visit our website, emergencyassistancefdn.org, or our LinkedIn page. We’re always posting updates, including tips and ‘share your story’ moments where applicants share what a grant means to them. Since inception, we’ve helped a lot of people, awarding over $260 million to more than 330,000 individuals and families. While it may seem like a lot, there are still many people experiencing life’s challenges every day.
Yitzi: It really must be so meaningful to go to work feeling you’re making a difference.
Lori: It is. It’s rewarding and gives a unique perspective on life. We respond to disasters and personal hardships globally, offering financial assistance wherever possible, as long as there are no U.S. sanctions. It makes you grateful for the little moments.
Yitzi: I wish you continued success. Thank you so much for your time, and I look forward to sharing about your important work with the world.
Lori: Thank you so much for your time.
Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Lori Rogers Of Emergency Assistance Foundation (EAF) Is Helping To… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.