Rethinking Payments to Bring Relief to Flood Victims

Rescue team helping flood victims. To streamline the delivery of relief funds, Community Foundation Santa Cruz County partnered with InComm InCentives to disburse more than $1 million in aid via gift cards – directly to impacted families.
Natural disasters can devastate communities without warning, leaving behind victims who may struggle to pay for shelter, food and water, and other supplies. This makes the swift dispersal of emergency relief an essential step towards recovery. Such was the case in 2023 when a levee breach caused severe flooding in Santa Cruz, California. Once evacuation orders were lifted, a local nonprofit called Community Foundation Santa Cruz County began planning how to provide families with financial aid they could use to rebuild their homes. These funds were intended to provide flexible spending to families with a wide range of immediate needs, but the disbursement method would need to balance this flexibility with speed and reliability.

To streamline the delivery of relief funds, Community Foundation Santa Cruz County partnered with InComm InCentives to disburse more than $1 million in aid via gift cards — directly to impacted families.

The Challenges of Traditional Payment Methods

The urgent situation in Santa Cruz called for a disbursement method that was fast, reliable, and customizable enough to ensure funds were properly managed and quickly delivered to families in need. Traditional payment methods could meet some of these requirements, but not all of them. For example, converting funds into paper bills or checks would provide the flexibility victims needed, but working with a financial institution to complete such a process could require significant time and logistical costs. Additionally, paper bills are difficult to track, which increases the risk of relief funds getting lost or stolen before reaching the recipient.

To mitigate these challenges, the foundation opted to use Visa® gift cards to disperse the aid dollars. Unlike branded (or closed-loop) gift cards, which are redeemable only at the restaurant, retailer, or brand identified on the card, Visa® cards are redeemable anywhere the card’s provider network is accepted. This flexibility would ensure families could spend funds on the items or services that would help them most.

Cultivated Solutions For Your Needs

With time of the essence, the foundation needed an efficient way to procure the gift cards they needed – so they opted to partner with us as we specialize in helping organizations manage reward and incentive programs. We offered several key benefits, including:

  • Customization — InComm InCentives creates custom catalogs for its partners that feature the type of gift cards appropriate for their specific needs. Our Visa® gift cards ensured residents received enough funds to pay for short-term needs during recovery.
  • Reliability — Unlike paper bills, the foundation had access to a range of tools and services through our platform that enabled them to track disbursements after a gift card order was placed, all of which helped ensure shipments went directly to the intended recipients.
  • Speed — With a dedicated InComm InCentives team member guiding the foundation, a custom gift card catalog was configured with orders placed and shipments sent within 48 hours.

Ongoing Partnerships to Support Long-Term Goals

Thanks to the customizable catalogs, tracking tools, and fast shipments available through our platform, the foundation was able to begin disbursing funds in under two days. While speed was critical during the initial setup, we also delivered long-term reliability; the foundation could continue ordering from their custom gift card catalog for as long as they needed to disburse relief funds. Ultimately, our partnership allowed them to distribute more than $1 million in aid last year – all of which went directly to local families recovering from the floods.

Do you need a solution to disburse funds quickly and efficiently? Contact us to learn more about our solutions.


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