Congrats to Our Hurricane Sandy Disaster Fund Grantees

Sandy-damaged houses in Mantoloking, NJ. Photo credit: Council of New Jersey Grantmakers
Sandy-damaged houses in Mantoloking, NJ. Photo credit: Council of New Jersey Grantmakers

I have had the humble privilege of being a grantmaker for over 10 years.  I love crafting grants, working with potential grantees, walking them through the approval process, and then getting to make that final call to say “You got it!”  Grantmaking is like Christmas to me – a way to recognize the amazing talents and heavy lifting of nonprofit organizations that are working to reduce human suffering following disasters.

You can see that I am giddy with excitement here… so I’ll dive in.

The Center for Disaster Philanthropy, through the CDP Hurricane Sandy Disaster Fund, has just awarded seven grants to exceptional organizations that are working to help New York and New Jersey recover from October 2012’s Superstorm Sandy.

As lead staff person to our Fund’s Grantmaking Committee, I worked diligently to field innovative and creative programs. The Committee and I used two filters – the first drove us to think about building best practices, demonstrating replicable and scalable models, to ultimately better the lives of Hurricane Sandy-affected communities. The second filter pushed us to think about mitigating the negative effects of the next national disaster. When taken in totality, these seven grants do just that – they meet current prevailing needs and mitigate future disaster shocks.

Of note, in our quest to look for innovative “good ideas” and “unmet needs’” we determined that funding solid, local, community-based organizations that were in operation in advance of the storm was also critically important. In addition to promoting the effective nature of scalable and replicable programs, supporting local is a key theme that we wish to telegraph to the broader, national funder landscape.

Our research has been exhaustive and we have reached out to funders, researchers, policy makers, and local and national responding organizations. Countless experts have taken their time to counsel us on how best to allocate our funds.

Grants will be made to the following organizations:

  • A $45,000 award to Brooklyn Community Foundation will help the local nonprofit develop a planning tool to assess needs and conditions at the neighborhood level; create a series of neighborhood maps that illustrate the recovery progress; train community partners how to use data for long-term planning purposes; and support civic dialogue on community recovery and planning.
  • A $75,000 award to Community Foundation of New Jersey to fund a collaborative project among Creative New Jersey, WHYY, and Citizens Campaign. The three organizations will provide training and tools to support community organizing efforts to respond to disasters. WHYY’s NewsWorks will host community dialogue. Creative New Jersey will bring its community organizing expertise to the effort, and Citizens Campaign will empower citizens by helping them understand and navigate local and state governments to enable effective participation in decision-making that impacts their communities.
  • Council of New Jersey Grantmakers will use its $25,000 grant to begin to create an innovative Philanthropy Playbook to help funders consider best practices and the most effective strategies for disaster giving.
  • The Institute for Public Knowledge at New York University will use a $48,000 award as seed money to write a trade book designed a to advance knowledge about Superstorm Sandy, climate change, and the future of cities to inform recovery efforts and strengthen community resilience.
  • Make the Road New York plans to invest its $50,000 gift in expanding work with Hispanic populations on Staten Island. The grant will help them identify urgent needs and connect families to immediate help; provide legal services; help train community members and place them in jobs; and make the voices and interests of the community heard as important decisions are made about the recovery effort across the affected area.
  • New Jersey Future will use its $75,000 grant to build Sandy-affected towns’ capacity to manage recovery issues while taking the longer-term view and planning to become more sustainable and resilient in the face of climate change. Specifically, it will create a network of local recovery planning managers for three significantly impacted municipalities, who will focus on medium- and long-term community needs.
  • The Puerto Rican Association for Human Development, Inc., received $26,600 to extend its Hurricane Sandy Victim Outreach Initiative to immigrant populations. The group expects to support 124 people through food vouchers, Wal-Mart gift cards, and access to case management, homelessness prevention, rental assistance, career development, housing counseling, senior services, and energy assistance.

These seven grants are exciting for a variety of reasons:

  1. They represent the first grants ever awarded by the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.  We are hovering at the one year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy and of CDP’s receiving its official 501c3 status – all of us at CDP are so proud to be able to support the continued long-term needs following the storm
  2. They highlight the continued need for resources (human, financial, and technical) to long-term recovery. Communities must be engaged in their own recovery, immigrant populations must have access to appropriate social services, and the media must continue to show what long term recovery looks like.
  3. They illustrate the faces of the survivor. These grants touch upon the young and old; vulnerable populations, the academe, and philanthropy – all with a goal of improving the lives of Hurricane Sandy-affected communities.
  4. They embrace the concept of strategic, effective giving. The grant demonstrate the desire on behalf of the private philanthropy to make disaster grants in a more effective manner, and in a manner that reflects the transformational power of private philanthropy.  We are so thankful for our lead donors to the Sandy Fund including the Barbara Streisand, The Hitachi Foundation and The Patterson Foundation.

I have high hopes for these seven grants – and even higher hopes for Sandy-affected communities’ ability to recover effectively. I want children to thrive in school, buildings to be built in an appropriate and sustainable manner, our social service sector to be strengthened by this experience, and for us to be able to apply (really apply) what we know about communities’ ability to rebuild.

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