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About the author(s)

Churchill Fellow
Winston Churchill Memorial Trusts

Growing Our Philanthropy Team

As we cautiously begin to sense a light at the end of the pandemic, I am reflecting on the philanthropy field, the people in it, and how we work together. Before discussing some welcome changes—and the benefits they could bring—I must first acknowledge how fortunate I am to simply have a job at this time, let alone a seat at a foundation. That is always an inherent position of privilege from which to work; it is amplified at this unique moment.

Through the 12-months-and-counting “moment” of the COVID-19 pandemic, the sense of team—which is incorporated into the Jim Joseph Foundation’s values—across the field has manifested itself in new ways. This could have long-lasting, positive effects for all of us. While there are 11 Foundation team members who work with grantee-partners to pursue the Foundation’s mission of fostering compelling, effective Jewish learning experiences for young Jews, my sense of team is much wider than that. The Foundation recently undertook a network mapping exercise of sorts to discover which colleagues at other foundations we correspond with, and how frequently that occurs. There are some colleagues at other foundations that I connect and strategize with more than internal team members. What does this say about our field? What opportunities do this type of communication present moving forward? How can this wider “team” most benefit grantees? Here are three possible answers to these questions.

More individuals in the field are eager to learn and learn together.

From more broadly sharing research and program evaluations and best practices for virtual engagement, to sharing lessons learned about philanthropy’s role in supporting Jewish life right now, there is a palpable sense among colleagues that we’re all learning in a new environment—oftentimes failing forward, and oftentimes with each other. This is a significant culture change in the field, perhaps accelerated over the last year. Colleagues, me included, are more open to meaningful and constructive feedback about grantmaking operations and how we support grantees. Some of this has been borne of necessity—we’re working in different ways through different types of interactions. We are more vulnerable and know that we need all the help we can get. I see the benefit of this learning happening organically and want to be even more intentional about making space for it, including carving out at least two hours per week to talk with colleagues at organizations outside of the Foundation’s grantee-partners.

Increased interactions among colleagues places greater importance on building trust and care.

Beyond the learnings that result from broader, field-wide team engagement, colleagues are pushing each other to be better in different aspects of work. This results in important changes in how we approach interactions with each other. Recently, I was strategizing with a colleague from another foundation about a fieldwide initiative. As we exchanged perspectives, I shared how we could each show up in the work, including suggestions for how they could show up. I later heard from a different colleague that my communication was not received in a helpful way. In fact, I had offended my colleague, and had eroded elements of the foundation of our trust. This third colleague was inviting me to repair the damage, to say we are all part of the same team and to understand how my intentions differed from my impact—and to address it. A follow-up call with my colleague was not easy for me but was critically important. The interaction highlighted that these deep, meaningful relationships enable real challenges and vulnerabilities to be shared among professional peers. That’s a positive. This also means that we need to treat these relationships with the care and respect we would of any relationship we want to sustain and grow. I commit to further helping build this across our sector, with a particular attention to the challenges of this work across lines of positional power to the Foundation’s grantee-partners as well.

Increased knowledge sharing among funder representatives can greatly help grantees.

For example, when the pandemic first hit, one of our earliest responses was to mobilize with our peer foundations to form The Jewish Community Response and Impact Fund, designed especially to be efficient for, and responsive to, potential grantees. From knowledge about what interventions are impactful, to what organizations need help in certain areas, to what potential grantees need to submit as part of a proposal, JCRIF is a systematic way for funders to share with each other. And JCRIF’s design to create a more efficient system for grantees reflects the power of a more connected, cohesive funder community. In this approach, grantees ultimately can more quickly be funneled to the right potential funders. One funder can more quickly aid another in helping a grantee maximize impact and/or overcome a challenge. Knowledge is power—and knowledge helps grantees.

In the spirit of a wider team, with more relationships among colleagues than ever before, and the trust that we all go further together than any one individual, the Foundation will soon share a major new report on networked leadership. This report lays the foundation for a new emphasis on the connections across our field and how to build programs that strengthen entire networks, rather than just developing specific individuals. As we continue to strengthen the network of professionals working in foundations, we see more benefits, and can work to leverage this stronger, growing team for the betterment of all.

Growing Our Philanthropy Team


About the author(s)

Program Officer
Jim Joseph Foundation

Participatory grantmaking in a pandemic: practical considerations in design

This post originally appeared on the Candid blog.

Many of the responses to the COVID-19 pandemic are being led by grassroots activists and organizers across the world.  As we consider how to resource and fund this emergent work both in the short and long term, the need to place communities most impacted by and leading responses at the heart of decisions is deeply apparent. This crisis offers us an opportunity to learn by doing and to experiment with new models of participatory decision making that are accountable and intentional.

As funders in the philanthropic sector seek to support communities in meaningful and appropriate ways, we participatory grantmakers want to share what this means in political and practical terms, including some considerations and reflections on design.

Here are some key considerations for funders seeking to build participation into their grantmaking responses.

1. Find a balance between urgency and participation

Designing a model that is participatory, virtual and quick is new terrain for many, but certainly not impossible. It requires open-mindedness and a balance between the urgency of getting resources out the door and grounding the approach in the values of  meaningful and authentic participation. This requires flexibility and inevitably some trade-offs. The key is clear decisions about which things are non-negotiable and where compromises are possible.

2. Be clear on whom this participatory model should serve

Before you start designing, ask yourselves: Why do you want to make this process participatory? Who is the core community or constituency that should be part of this process? Then engage these communities in design as early as possible in the process, and find agreement on the values underpinning your model.

3. Start with your original base

This one comes with a shout out to Virisila Buadromoi from the Urgent Action Fund for Asia and Pacific: Where you can, start with activists in your community, your networks or sister funders. This is a way to ensure you can very quickly resource and also show up for your community when they need you most. It will cut down on due diligence and outreach and allow you to move quickly. One way to consider this is to first fund grantees of sister funds as phase 1, and then, having tested the process with your existing community, as phase 2, roll out a more widely accessible pot of funds.

4. Know that you don’t need to reinvent the wheel

The COVID-19 pandemic underscores our interdependence. It shows us that we need to be in solidarity with others and use our skills and experience where we can to contribute to quick and well-designed responses. Draw on your networks and the expertise of those who have concrete experience in doing participatory and/or rapid response grant making. The GrantCraft Guide Deciding Together on participatory grantmaking is a good place to start. Look at how your work can complement existing work rather than duplicate.

5. Compensate activists for their time

Many activists have lost their jobs and organizations; many are in even more precarious financial situations then they were before the pandemic. Where you can, prioritize paying some financial compensation, stipends, or remuneration for people’s time spent advising or deciding on grants. Time is more precious than ever right now, and activists bringing their capacity and expertise to this work should be valued.

6. No process is perfect; plan to learn and adapt

Designing these models is new for almost everyone! So it is important to be open and accept with humility that there’s much we don't know. Do not strive for perfection, but rather a “work in progress” that will get better over time. Acknowledge up-front your plans to test and adapt your model.  Doing this with intention, transparency and care will ensure the changes do not have a backlash on people that apply for grants, peer reviewers.

7. Embed transparency in your process

Wherever you can, document your learnings in real time. Make your documents open source so they can provide learning for your peers in philanthropy. Not only will this help you to learn but it will also build with broader stakeholders. Also, it will help the field generally to grow—to learn from each other and to improve together.


COVID-19, Racism, and Philanthropy


As the founder and president of Marga Inc., a consulting firm providing strategic advice and research to philanthropic initiatives and community partnerships, I have led coordination of the Race and Equity in Philanthropy Group (REPG), which engages a cluster of member foundations in strengthening policies and practices on racial equity, diversity, and inclusion. Through that work, Marga Inc. has collected the information and examples shared here.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world. It is a crippling disaster.

As is often the case during and after disasters, philanthropy has stepped in. Over recent weeks, we have seen foundations and their partners create numerous relief funds and explore new policies to move resources more quickly or make grants and donations more flexible for recipients. And we have seen foundations raise their voices to highlight injustices during the crisis as well. More recently, some foundations have been speaking out regarding the events surrounding the deaths of George Floyd and other unarmed Black citizens and the broader racial injustices these incidents represent.

COVID-19 and Structural Racism

This pandemic is no ordinary disaster. It is creating, as so many have said, “a new normal.” While it has ushered in some new realities, it has also highlighted existing inequities—one of which is longstanding structural racism.

As data begins to become more available, we are seeing that people of color are more likely to be affected by the pandemic—they are contracting and dying from the virus at higher rates, as they disproportionately reside in densely populated metropolitan areas that increase the risk of exposure to the coronavirus, and those who contract the virus face worse health outcomes than their white counterparts.
Social distancing and working from home have been vital ways in which the spread of the virus has been limited to some degree. But many lower income people of color are not in a position to practice distancing if they don’t have much space at home, or they live with numerous others in those quarters. Perhaps they do not have homes at all. Mass incarceration has disproportionately filled prisons with people of color living in close quarters in which the virus can spread.

Additionally, many of the jobs that cannot be done at home and are considered essential, such as service employees in grocery stores or transportation workers, are disproportionately occupied by Black and Latinx employees. These workers are true champions for placing themselves at risk to keep things going. They deserve tremendous gratitude. Native American communities have been particularly devastated by COVID-19 as well.

Discrimination, xenophobia, and ignorance are components of racism that have also surfaced around COVID-19, as demonstrated in the rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans, who are being blamed for the virus.

In addition, what is unquestionably a public health crisis is also an economic one. As jobs disappear and small businesses go under, populations with limited savings and limited career flexibility cannot withstand the loss of even a single paycheck. In the context of structural racism, again, communities that have been historically underserved and disenfranchised are most vulnerable.

One of the greatest disparities by race is around wealth, beyond income. Crises put a strain on communities with the least wealth (e.g., savings). So many in communities of color experienced dramatic losses in wealth during the financial crisis over a decade ago and were just starting to recover. This pandemic worsens conditions for those already vulnerable conditions.

As the pandemic has exacerbated existing inequities in a public health and economic crisis, a third crisis of racial injustice has converged with our experiences around COVID-19. Again, the very recent murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery are not actually new. They are emblematic of a history of systemic violence against communities of color, and Black people in particular. There have been many protests following specific acts of racial injustice throughout this century, but none as widespread and multiracial as the daily and nightly civil unrest of late May and early June.

It is also critical to examine the distribution of resources by financial institutions and by philanthropy during this multidimensional crisis. Who gets the money? At this moment, there is debate and inquiry around how the smallest businesses that need funding the most are not getting much, while larger businesses are figuring out ways to get more funding. These are familiar dynamics, with a racial dimension to the distribution of resources in philanthropy. Smaller organizations led by and serving communities of color that are in greatest need are often disconnected from larger foundations and greater philanthropic resources.

As we look at the inequities illuminated in the pandemic, philanthropy absolutely must explore how grantmakers can substantially expand giving to organizations led by and serving communities of color. It is particularly important to serve representative organizations that provide a voice for their constituents and raise awareness about the realities confronting communities and advocate for policy change.

The many actions taken by foundations and donors recently are very important. But it is crucial to expand the number and range of philanthropic activities that directly address the racial dynamics that are increasingly apparent in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the racial injustices around repeated police brutality. The clear worsening of racial inequity demonstrated throughout this crisis only underscores the need for foundations to make it a priority in all aspects of their work well beyond the near future. If foundations want to contribute to improving the health and economic conditions that have influenced the gravity of the pandemic’s impact, they will have to consider crucial racial dynamics.

Philanthropy Together for Change

It is encouraging that many foundations have been actively engaged during the pandemic, focusing on the various racial equity considerations evident in the crisis. Because racial equity is complex, there is not a one-size-fits-all approach.

Below are a variety of approaches some funders are taking that may serve as helpful examples for others.

Advocating for immigrant communities

A group of 40 California-based foundations signed a joint letter to Governor Gavin Newsom elevating the need to support and protect immigrant Californians and their families, who are excluded from federal relief and ineligible for state safety-net programs.

Creating rapid response funds and giving grants to support communities of color and other vulnerable communities.

(A complete list of the many recently created crisis response funds can be found on Candid’s regularly updated list of funding opportunities on its coronavirus popup web page.)

  • The California Wellness Foundation is committing $3 million in grants to support the most vulnerable communities and people in the state. Additionally, they are providing core support grants to small and mid-size organizations led by people of color.
  • The James Irvine Foundation board approved $22 million to support grantees that are critical to California’s efforts to protect and advance low-wage workers and to help other grassroots organizations in California.
  • The East Bay Community Foundation is allocating $1 million from its endowment to support provide support for the most vulnerable communities in the East Bay.
  • The Ford Foundation, along with several other funders, launched the Families and Workers Fund to serve the workers, families, and communities most devastated by the economic and health crises resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The Seattle Foundation, in partnership with a coalition of philanthropy, government, and business partners, started the COVID-19 Response Fund. The fund, which is intended for nonprofits that are working on the frontlines, prioritizes communities of color, undocumented immigrants, low-income residents, limited English proficient residents, among others. So far the fund has galvanized $21 million.
  • The San Francisco Foundation has created the SFF COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund for capacity building grants to address worker support, preventing homelessness, providing renter protection/housing security, ensuring food security, and addressing racial bias. It is also tracking race and ethnicity data of grantees and populations served.
  • The Langeloth Foundation has created the COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund to address organizations’ urgent and critical needs.
  • The California Endowment announced a $5 million COVID-19 Response Plan to provide for the essential needs of highly vulnerable populations in California.
  • The Walton Family Foundation approved using part of its annual grant budget for disaster relief to provide direct support for existing grantees. Many of these are education grants to target under-resourced schools where students of color often comprise the majority of the student population.
  • The Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation has relied on local philanthropic partners to provide grants to individuals for basic needs and to nonprofits providing direct services. recognizing that many businesses in communities of color have limited access to capital, the foundation has also provided $400,000 directly to CDFI (Community Development Financial Intsitutions) partners to provide loans and grants for small businesses
  • The Lumina Foundation designated two contingency funds totaling $1.4 million to address the needs of national partners and to fund the work of local nonprofits in Indianapolis.

Denouncing discrimination against Asian American and Pacific Islander communities

Several foundations have endorsed the call to action from Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy (AAPIP) entitled “Open Letter to Philanthropy: The Cure to Viral Racism is Within Our Hands,” which denounces the racism accompanying COVID-19 that is targeting Asian American communities.

Focusing public attention on structural racism and racial inequities

Policy advocacy, and community organizing

  • The San Francisco Foundation is planning to weigh in on key policy issues, as it sees this as one of the most important tools it can use to advance racial equity and economic inclusion in the Bay Area.
  • The California Wellness Foundation will commit $1 million to community clinics and the associations that advocate for them.
  • The East Bay Community Foundation’sCOVID-19: “Just East Bay” Response Fund will target community groups that put policy and organizing at the core of their work and prioritize underserved populations.
  • The James Irvine Foundation, as part of the Priority Communities grantmaking initiative, is focusing on building more inclusive and equitable economies in several places.
  • The Annie E. Casey Foundation has provided policy resources, which elevate the needs of youth, families, and communities of color, to help grantees influence and educate federal legislators to inform relief bills.

Promoting power building strategies

Going Forward

One way foundations should deepen communication with communities of color is through existing networks that have been organizing people of color in philanthropy and raising awareness about racial equity, such as the ABFE, Hispanics in Philanthropy, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy, and Native Americans in Philanthropy, among others.

COVID-19 has revealed the depth of persistent racial inequities, which has made the array of existing resources in philanthropy even more relevant to helping foundations contribute to social change. Change Philanthropy’s assessment tool can help foundations understand the state of their current policies and practices and the breadth of considerations as they imagine the work required to become more inclusive and equitable. The Philanthropy Initiative on Racial Equity (PRE) is another resource that has been helping foundations bring a racial equity lens to their work. United Philanthropy Forum’s Racial Equity Committee has been helping philanthropy-serving organizations build capacity to help their foundation members develop programming on racial equity.

The coronavirus pandemic has exposed structural racism we already knew about, and the need for philanthropy to directly address these inequities has been longstanding. But if anyone needed an additional reason to prioritize racial equity in philanthropy, the rationale is upon us. In this pandemic, its impacts, and aftermath, we will need foundations to use all the tools at their disposal. This will include greater funding to organizations led by and serving communities of color and will also require foundations and donors to reflect on themselves as civic actors—as institutional change agents willing to raise awareness about the racial dimensions of this crisis and advocate for change.

Persistent acts of police brutality and racist violence that have especially impacted Black communities over generations have been painfully animated in recent events. While each incident involves individuals, the context is systemic racism. The lack of accountability of the perpetrators of such acts demonstrates the structural racism that supports and even encourages these behaviors. Foundations will have to challenge these systems in order to be relevant, and support the advocacy and community organizing to dramatically reform the criminal justice system and the racism embedded within it.

As the impact of COVID-19 on communities of color will be longstanding, philanthropy will be faced with a continued challenge. And as the calls for justice in the face of recent racist murders increase, philanthropy is faced with another responsibility. Philanthropy will have to make a sustained commitment to racial equity, racial justice, and communities of color in order to truly have an impact.

Certainly, philanthropy alone will not transform historically persistent inequities. But philanthropy can use its influence—both money and power—across sectors to authentically collaborate with communities that are most impacted to effect real change.

About the author(s)

Founder and President
Marga Inc.

Crisis at Scale is an Invitation to Share & Learn at Scale

I hope this newsletter finds you staying healthy and productive during these stressful times. From social distancing, and donning masks, to remote work and school, and determining which phase of re-opening our communities have entered, there’s a lot to get used to, and many updates to track.

Here at my desk in California, my husband and kids have been at my home office with me daily since mid-March. We are fortunate that the children are school-aged and that their teachers have been providing remote instruction that keeps them busy most of the day.

However, this routine has also made me painfully aware of the inequities of this sudden leap to technology-based learning. Though some schools are making laptops available, not all families have Wi-Fi at home so children can connect. And in helping a local teacher communicate with Spanish-speaking families in my community, I’ve also discovered that some families fear accepting laptops on loan because they worry their children might break them, so they opt for worksheet packets instead.

In a world where only those with access to technology receive regular interaction and instruction from their teacher, it’s clear that many students will get left behind. The tragedy of this is magnified when one considers college-aged young adults who may find themselves now lacking a supportive learning environment or, in some cases, even becoming homeless.

Student poverty is a huge issue. It’s reminding me of our ongoing work on the Scholarships for Change platform, where we are tracking information about how donors are able to use scholarship dollars to create social impact. Some of the case studies there now take on new resonance, such as Ascendium’s emergency student aid program, which provides critical support for students in crisis. Does your organization award scholarships or student aid? How has your support of students changed due to the crisis? Given this ongoing effort, GrantCraft is interested in featuring blog content about adaptive approaches donors are using to equip students during these difficult times. Let us know so we can help you share what you are learning.

Education is just one of many such issues that are magnified by this pandemic, which is expanding divides between the haves and have-nots in wide-ranging areas of essential needs, such as health, hunger, housing, and employment. Here at Candid, we’ve been tracking how philanthropy is using its grant dollars to respond to the scale of this crisis. Our COVID-19 Pop-Up Page is providing free access to grants information, rapid response funds, COVID-related RFPs, and related news.

The grants data updates regularly, and, as of this writing, we are mapping a total of $10.5 billion of grants awarded in response to the crisis. Are your grants on our map? These tools are incomplete without your participation. The majority of this data comes from either news sources or directly from funders electronically reporting these grants to us. If your organization has funded efforts related to the crisis, please share information on this grantmaking so we can include your COVID-19 grants on our free, public map. We even have templates for submitting your information. Just be sure to include either the term "coronavirus" or "COVID-19" in your grant descriptions so they end up in the right place.

Candid’s COVID-19 web page also shares insights from our staff about what we are learning from our data. For example, I recently examined how foundations that participate in our GlassPockets transparency program are communicating about changes they are making to grantmaking practices. You can find out more about the communication trends I identified. This effort led to a recent “Community Conversation” co-hosted with PEAK Grantmaking during which we captured more information about practice changes that funders are making now, and which ones we hope are here to stay. These include things like streamlined applications, wider adoption of electronic submissions and payments, and increased use of general operating support and participatory grantmaking.

On that latter point, you may already be familiar with GrantCraft’s field guide on participatory grantmaking, Deciding Together. But did you also know we share the mechanics of how funders have made such efforts work? Since shifting power is taking on new resonance now with many working to lift the burden on grantees, and considering how to better learn from community voices and expertise, GrantCraft is interested in lifting up case examples and mechanics of participatory grantmaking during the pandemic. How do you balance the need for participation at a time when many community leaders are dealing with crisis? Let us know if you have lessons that we can share on our platform.

I realize this is a lot of questions for one newsletter, but hopefully it’s a good reminder that everything we do in philanthropy is ultimately about sharing and learning, and the knowledge that we are in this together makes social distancing, and the scale of this crisis, just a little more bearable.


This letter originally appeared in GrantCraft's newsletter. To stay updated with our newsletter and special alerts, sign up here.

About the author(s)

Director of Candid Learning

Measuring the State of Disaster Philanthropy

Candid and the Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP) announce the sixth edition of their annual research report, Measuring the State of Disaster Philanthropy 2019: Data to Drive Decisions. The report draws from 12 data sources and documents $45 billion in private, public, corporate, and individual disaster-related giving to address major global disasters and humanitarian crises in 2017. In the United States, 2017 was the costliest year of natural disasters on record, with Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria and wildfires in California. Global disasters included two large earthquakes in Mexico, famines in Africa, and civil unrest in Syria and Yemen.

The online tools combine information from six global sources and allow users to view and interact with multiple streams of data simultaneously. The report, along with the free data dashboard and mapping platform, are available at disasterphilanthropy.candid.org.

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UPS Looks to the Past to Plan Investments for the Future

As Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) professionals and those thinking about disaster philanthropy plan for the year ahead, I encourage keeping one eye on the past in planning new strategies and commitments.

As the impacts of severe weather and complex crisis continue to grow, my hope is that more companies and their CSR and/or foundation branch will begin to develop disaster resilience strategies that incorporate mitigation and preparedness initiatives, and reserve additional funding for long-term recovery in addition to their response efforts.

As the Center for Disaster Philanthropy has indicated, most of the money provided for a disaster is given within the first thirty days. And although U.S. corporations are among the most generous in the world, most face extreme pressure from various stakeholders including C-suite executives, employees, and customers to name a few,  to make their commitments quickly, to publicly be the first out of the box, often before the unique needs of a community are identified.

One of the steps that The UPS Foundation has taken in recent years is to develop a broad spectrum of strategic partners and engage in initiatives that focus on preparedness, response, and recovery. When the 2017 hurricanes hit, The UPS Foundation was able to make our financial and in-kind commitments quickly, with specific grants for immediate relief, with one unique difference. We also included commitments to long-term recovery, which will be allocated in the months to come, as the unique needs of communities come to light.

We never lose sight of those long-term needs, shared in news cycles long past but still urgent. For example, while UPS was providing support for Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, we were also working with Good360.org to transport donated furniture to Baton Rouge, helping more than 100 families return to their homes more than a year after the Louisiana floods of 2016.

In 2018, we will once again award new commitments to our partners, but rest assured many of these will keep one eye on the past, to support recovery efforts in Houston, Florida, and in the Caribbean, through grant, in-kind, and volunteer support efforts until our communities are built back better, and more resilient.

The Center for Disaster Philanthropy is a tremendous resource, with tools like the Disaster Philanthropy Playbook that can connect corporations and foundations with agencies filling vital long-term needs of families and communities, who are looking to the new year with hope that they won’t be forgotten. 


About the author(s)

Director, UPS Humanitarian Relief & Resilience Program
& UPS Foundation Communications
The UPS Foundation

Coming Together for Disaster Relief and Recovery

In late August, the Community Foundation of Collier County held a meeting with other community partners to plan for the possibility of how to collaborate in the event of a disaster, be it an attack or an act of God.   Little did we know that on September 10th our lives would be changed by Hurricane Irma—her havoc and destruction forever leaving a mark in our hearts and minds.

So together with the United Way of Collier County, we immediately jumped into action, literally from our respective shelters during the storm, and formed the Collier Comes Together Disaster Relief Fund to provide assistance to Hurricane Irma victims in Collier County, Florida. According to Collier County Emergency Management, Irma’s direct hit has incurred $64 million in recovery costs to date, caused 42,000 people in Collier to need some form of housing help (either in rent or hotel stays), placed 256 people in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) trailers, and has racked up more than 4 million cubic yards of debris to be removed. The cost to replace sand on our beaches, our biggest tourist attraction that supports our economy, is estimated to be $35 million. But we are not just talking about Naples.  Collier County, which is roughly the size of Rhode Island, also includes Marco Island, Everglades City, Chokoloskee, Goodland, Golden Gate, East Naples, and Immokalee.

We were able to grant $75,000 to Harry Chapin Food Bank of Southwest Florida a few days after the storm to provide immediate relief for hurricane victims. Around 494,045 pounds of food and water were distributed to families, children, seniors, and other Collier County residents. Also within the first few weeks of the recovery effort, we distributed over $250,000 through 1,200 gift cards valued from $150-$250 through the Salvation Army Naples and Catholic Charities, trusted community organizations known for their careful vetting processes, to residents of Golden Gate, Immokalee and Everglades City who were affected by Hurricane Irma.  The blend of grant funding to organizations and direct relief to individuals was important to us because we needed to help those who were in dire need, and also have a broader reach working with partners that are familiar with each area’s needs. This helped to speed up relief efforts as nonprofits did not have to go through a grant process.  Decisions on where the money was needed most were made in collaboration with the United Way of Collier County.

So far, we have raised over $1.3 million and have distributed about $800,000 to more than 20 area nonprofits that are structured to help with basic necessity and housing needs.

Now that immediate recovery needs are being met, our focus is expanding to long-term housing needs of the many that have lost their homes or have been displaced pending extensive repairs. For example, this week we found out that 350 children in our local school system who have been homeless since the storm are losing their FEMA housing assistance and will be evicted from the local hotels they have been staying at with their families. So we granted $35,000 to Collier County Public Schools whose homeless liaison will determine how to quickly disperse these funds so these families have somewhere to live until a permanent solution can be found.

We also partnered with FEMA to educate our nonprofits on Small Business Administration (SBA) loans to help them receive low–interest loans to repair their organizational structures and are holding short-term employee disaster relief funds for corporations that want to help their employees who were affected by the storm — all without any administrative fee.  One hundred percent of donations are distributed to hurricane victims. We are able to do this because of our foresight in meeting with our community partners and formulating a plan of action. We knew it was just a matter of time before we were faced with a crisis situation in our community.

So what is the silver lining to disaster? It’s the amazing way a community comes together in the time of a crisis to help people they have never met.  Individuals and organizations, large and small, are holding events to benefit this cause and make a difference.  Our community foundation, like so many others, are in touch with the needs of our community through our connections and have the power to step in to collaborate with other organizations to help when a disaster hits.  We feel this is not only an option, but this is our obligation to step up as a leader. We are inspired by the outpouring of support we have received and will continue to find ways to rebuild our community and to provide help and hope for those in need.

About the author(s)

Marketing Director
Community Foundation of Collier County

Ways Small Funders Can Respond to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma (and Other Disasters)

Small funders may lack the capacity or disaster experience of their larger counterparts, but the Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP)’s recent webinar with Exponent Philanthropy, featuring Lori J. Bertman, of the Irene W. and CB Pennington Foundation and Rebecca Hove of the Greater Houston Community Foundation, strongly argue there is space for small foundations to be effective. Here are five key points distilled from their strategies:

Take the long view

Sit on your hands for a bit and time your giving. This cannot be overstated. The full range of needs and impacts from Harvey will not emerge immediately. The overwhelming majority of disaster funding goes toward relief, but there is the full disaster lifecycle to consider. As past disasters have shown, funding is going to be needed over multiple years—likely much longer than you think.

Service on the ground

If you can and are willing, get out into the community and serve. Dollars are always important and there is a long-term need for funding, but service cannot be underestimated. Is a long-term grantee partner working on the ground? Show up and support their work.

Invest in partners

For immediate disaster response, find service providers working quickly and at scale to meet the immediate needs of affected communities. Find local organizations that can set up a voucher or debit card system, or a preferred hotel chain partner to meet those needs. Find national organizations that can set up infrastructure—not just shelter, but food and water distribution. Do you have grantees already working on Harvey? They will likely need and value your support.


If you do not have capacity to do due diligence, consider giving to the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund or the Hurricane Irma Recovery Fund, pooled funds, or to another local organization or funding partners, who can also share hard-won knowledge. As Regine Webster of CDP put it, “collaborative philanthropic response to the disaster leverages combined expertise and maximizes the value of the human, financial, and technical resources.”

Community as volunteers

Utilize offers from your donors, partners, and community members who want to help and volunteer. They can support your work by sourcing information, creating resource documents for providing and receiving aid, and by many other creative ways.

Remember that private philanthropy is nimble, flexible, and can fill gaps in funding that the different levels of government cannot. Beyond the scope of this hurricane season, there are opportunities for philanthropy to be innovative in disaster prevention and mitigation.

Check out these resources to learn about how you can use data to drive better disaster-related funding decisions: Measuring the State of Disaster Philanthropy and the Disaster Philanthropy Playbook.

For our tech-savvy readers - Foundation Center also has free APIs you can use to quickly and easily incorporate our data on disaster funding into your internal systems and applications. Sign up for a Registry Key here, and access these free APIs here.

About the author(s)

Knowledge Services Assistant
Foundation Center

Leveraging Good Data for More Effective Disaster Philanthropy

In a world where humanitarian crises are increasing in complexity, frequency and duration, philanthropy has a unique opportunity to provide flexible funding to the places that need it most. High quality data is a critical component to making informed investments and working successfully with fellow donors and implementers.


Children in a makeshift school run by the IRC at the Karameh displacement camp in Syria’s Idlib Governorate.

Photo credit: Peter Biro/IRC

As highlighted in the most recent edition of the annual World Humanitarian Data and Trends report published by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), more than 130 million people worldwide depend on humanitarian assistance for survival. Humanitarian crises have become increasingly complex, with nearly all resulting from a combination of political instability, conflict and violence, social inequities, and resource scarcity. And yet, the available funding to address these needs is insufficient as well as inequitably distributed, often concentrated toward a few high profile crises.

In order to better understand the state of humanitarian assistance, and how to more effectively address these issues, funders need to be informed by trusted, reliable information.  This is why we believe resources like the Center for Disaster Philanthropy and the Measuring the State of Disaster Philanthropy are so important for the field. Produced in partnership with Foundation Center, the State of Disaster Philanthropy report and interactive dashboard provide data on philanthropic funding for disasters.

Here is how having access to good data, including information about other donors, can help funders at all three stages (pre-disaster, immediate relief, and longer-term reconstruction) of the disaster cycle:

  • Too often, funders are focused on relief and response efforts after a disaster, but disaster risk management and preparedness before a crisis even occurs can help build stronger communities. Here, quality data can be critical to identifying the root causes of crises in order to promote day-before investments which mitigate risk, as opposed to only day-after responses.
  • Once a crisis has occurred, timely and accurate information is key to informing philanthropists on which intervention to fund as well as coordinating resources across institutions and donors. This ensures we respond with strategic investments, and helps to prevent us from contributing to needless duplication and avoid other ineffective practices. 
  • Over the medium- to long-term, this information allows funders to evaluate the effectiveness of a response both during and after an intervention, informing better choices going forward. Data provide funders the opportunity to assist implementers as they adapt to the ever-changing needs and nature of these complex crises.

In the face of the world’s greatest challenges, we have a unique opportunity to leverage our collective knowledge and expertise to work more effectively together.

In this way, we can channel and share our different strengths and points of view, enabling us to look at issues from a fresh perspective and accomplish things together that we could never do independently. Discover new ways to collaborate, share, and connect with other funders through data using these State of Disaster Philanthropy instructional videos and guides.

Since Hurricane Harvey made landfall near Rockport, Texas, on August 25, the devastating storm has left several hundred thousand without power and several thousand displaced to shelters. In response to the storm, CDP has created a Hurricane Harvey Recovery Fund which will drive support for medium- and long-term recovery needs that will arise in the weeks and months to come. We expect the long-term needs to be rebuilding homes, businesses, infrastructure, meeting the needs of young children, supporting mental health needs, and boosting damaged agricultural sectors. Please click here if you’d like to support the fund.

About the author(s)

Vice President, Grant Programs
Conrad N. Hilton Foundation