What It Is

katrina-whitefoursquareThis report’s goal is to document progress and ensure continued philanthropic investment in Gulf Coast recovery—and to offer a blueprint for future donor engagement in other disasters.

Prepared by the New York Regional Association of Grantmakers, now known as Philanthropy New York, the 2008 report incorporates information from more than 370 grantmakers, community foundations, nonprofits, local government agencies, and others. Rather than focusing on failures related to the 2005 hurricane-related catastrophe, it focuses on efforts that both grantmakers and grant recipients deemed successful.

What It Says

Within a few weeks of Hurricane Katrina’s devastating landfall in the Gulf Coast, more than 75 members of NYRAG convened in person and via teleconference to develop a strategic response. The result was the NYRAG Gulf Coast Recovery Task Force, with representatives from across the philanthropic and business spectrum. Thanks to clear core values early on, at the time of the report, 145 New York area philanthropic organizations had responded to the disaster, providing funding to 950 nonprofits in 196 communities across 38 states and four countries. The more-than $325 million in grants have contributed to rescue, recovery, and rebuilding.

As such, the task force has been hailed as an exemplary model of collaborative philanthropic response. And along the way, NYRAG developed several best practices from the organizations taking part. Suggestions include:

  • Utilize key people in affected communities.
  • Utilize existing relationships with nonprofit partners and other philanthropists to learn of needs and opportunities. Conversely, share information with other funders and nonprofits.
  • Be proactive rather than waiting for nonprofits in the affected areas to request help.
  • Defer a portion of grant dispersal until the gaps that need to be filled between short and longer-term efforts are determined.
  • Simplify the application process to minimize demands on nonprofits in the aftermath of the disaster.
  • Be willing to take risks, including investing in nonprofits that haven’t previously received significant funding from grantmakers in the past.

Why It Matters

It is possible to invest too quickly. The sharing of information—through partnerships and resources such as the Center for Disaster Philanthropy—is essential. The devastation of the Gulf Coast highlighted the way collaborative initiatives can lead to the most effective use of resources.

In addition, members of the communities that have been affected simply must be involved in decisions made about their future. And then there’s the challenge of foundations being unaware of federal policies that can impact recovery. The report warns against wasting philanthropic dollars on actions that should be funded by the federal government. Likewise, it’s important for grantmakers to recognize the part of the recovery process played by faith-based organizations.

Read the entire document.