Philanthropy and Hurricane Sandy: A Report on the Foundation and Corporate Response

by Steven Lawrence

Oct 28, 2014
What was the philanthropic response to Hurricane Sandy? It is a simple question -- too simple really. Philanthropy is not a monolithic sector, but rather an immensely diverse set of private entities with different approaches to any given social challenge. That's one of the wonderful things about philanthropy and the reason our nation's tax laws support the creation of foundations: private givers often have approaches very different from government and can direct their resources in ways that government will not and cannot. As this report documents, the philanthropic sector's contributions to Hurricane Sandy recovery were impressive and historically quite large, but still only a fraction of the hundreds of billions of dollars allocated by government. Given the disparity in dollars, do philanthropy's contributions matter? These pages make the case that how philanthropic dollars were allocated absolutely matters. Two years later, as communities across the New York-New Jersey region hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy still struggle to recover, philanthropic dollars have been essential in helping fund programs for community advocacy to ensure government acts properly, to fill the holes in the social service delivery system, to help community members provide input into the redevelopment planning process and countless other efforts that government often can't or won't do. At its core, this report documents how philanthropy responded, but we also hope it points funders continuing to respond to this disaster and those responding to future emergencies to the nonprofit organizations who have been at the center of the relief, recovery and rebuilding. It is intended to help teach for the future, as the New York chapter lays out lessons learned and "best practices" in addition to the basic statistics, charts and graphs on how philanthropic dollars were allocated. The New Jersey chapter also breaks down the statistics, charts and graphs, but also speaks to the work that remains with so many residents and communities continuing to face untenable conditions as they approach the two-year anniversary. In both cases, the best practices offered and the issues that remain are germane to both New York and New Jersey, and to a discussion of the larger philanthropic response to the disaster.
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