Hurricane Ida made landfall near Port Fourchon in Southeast Louisiana on August 29, 2021 — the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
It was a Category 4 storm, and its impact was devastating, particularly in the Bayou Region, the River Parishes, Lafitte, and Grand Isle.
In the days just after Hurricane Ida made landfall, our grantee partners took action, and so did we.
We responded with trust-based philanthropy, leveraging foresight, strategy, and empathy to help address the disaster. In less than 3 weeks, we raised $4M from 1,300 generous donors to fuel our partners’ efforts.
And by October 2021, we had supported more than 80 nonprofits and distributed over $3M of that funding, with a focus on equitable distribution to BIPOC-led nonprofits.
Hurricane Ida had a devastating impact on Southeast Louisiana. In partnership with nonprofits and generous donors, we responded swiftly and powerfully. We share stories of our response here, knowing that our region is not alone in facing weather disasters. On this site, you can view videos and read profiles of our nonprofit partners, learn about our process, or dive deeper into our more formal evaluation report.
This site will serve as an evolving impact report and will be frequently updated as the Foundation continues our response to Hurricane Ida through research, grantmaking, nonprofit storytelling, and trust-based philanthropy.
3 Weeks After
8 Months After
We’re proud to share the stories of four nonprofit leaders’ experiences.
Data is only one way to measure a nonprofit’s impact. We asked grantee partner leaders to share stories, prompted by photos that represented their experiences. This is one of the best ways we have to understand the impact they have in their communities. We believe our partners should be fully in charge of their own narratives. Here, we amplify their voices and make space for them to tell their story in their own way.
We are inspired by the dedication and generosity of local and national foundations, corporations, individuals, fundholders, and friends. We know that our funders do not give for the accolades. But we want to honor their deep care and conviction and celebrate the ways in which they’ve unequivocally made Southeast Louisiana a safer, stronger, more sustainable place for generations to come.
$1M - $500K
$350K - $150K
$100K - $30K
$25K - Below
$1M - $500K
Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation
Baltimore Ravens and the Stephen and Renee Bisciotti Foundation, Inc
Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas
Mrs. Gayle Benson
William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust
$350K - $150K
Baton Rouge Area Foundation
Dick J. Guidry Fund
Swedish Match North America
United Health Foundation, Inc
William Randolph Hearst Foundation
$100K - $30K
Delta Dental Community Care Foundation
Donald B. Tanklage and Carole F. Tanklage Foundation of the Marin Community Foundation
Forman Watkins & Krutz LLP
Glaxo Smith Kline
JP Morgan Chase Foundation
Peterson Family Foundatio
Reynolds American and Sante Fe Natural Tobacco Company
Robert Merrick Family Fund
Sharon D. Lund Foundation
Silicon Valley Community Foundation
The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation
$25K - Below
Aliski Family Fund
Aronson - Besthoff Fund
Arthur Jung III
Bertrand and Mariann Wilson Family Fund
Casey Langteau Art, LLC.
Catherine Meehan Donor Advised Fund
Cathy and Walter Isaacson Donor Advised Fund
Eugenie & Joseph Jones Family Foundation
Further Forward Foundation
Goldman Sachs Philanthropy Fund
Greg and Donna Howard Family Fund
Hilliard Lyons Trust
Hueber-Breuer Construction Company
J Aron Charitable Foundation, Inc.
Kenneth Spradley Donor Advised Fund
Molina Family Foundation
Mrs. Lore Aloro
Rachael Schultz Fund
Reily Foundation/Ethel Reily Dicks Memorial Fund
Reily Foundation/H. Eustis & Frederica G. Reily #1 Family Fund
Sherry & Alan Leaventhal
Southern Insulators and Reliable Glass and Mirror
Stephen Elledge Donor Advised Fund
The Charles & Lucille King Family Foundation
“In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Ida, our partnership with the Greater New Orleans Foundation allowed us to get critical funds in the hands of nonprofits leading disaster response on the front lines. We know the road to recovery is long, and we must continue to support those impacted by Hurricane Ida’s destruction. The Foundation allows us to do just that; it has the knowledge and relationships to ensure our local nonprofits have the resources they need to aid our most vulnerable communities going forward.”
- Mrs. Gayle Benson, team owner of the New Orleans Saints and Pelicans
“We have been doing business since 1932 in five states, including Louisiana. When something terrible happens in our footprint, we try to do something to help those that have been impacted. When Ida hit, and we saw the ferociousness of the damage through those parishes in its path, we wanted to be able to provide funds to organizations that were “on the ground.” We talked to a number of folks that we had great regard for, and they kept pointing us to the Greater New Orleans Foundation. Everybody wants their money to be well spent and to make a positive impact. When you find a community foundation that has a great reputation and evokes trust from the people they're working with, it makes you feel confident that you're sending money to the right folks. That's how we felt about the Greater New Orleans Foundation.”
- Mr. Greg Hettrick, Director of Community Investment at Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas
“The Falcons and the Saints may be opponents on the field, but when the clock runs out and the game is over, we’re on the same side. New Orleans is a resilient, beautiful city and I’m grateful to Gayle Benson in her support of the Greater New Orleans Foundation and for the opportunity to join her efforts to help the amazing people of the city bounce back after Hurricane Ida. The sport we love so much has a beautiful way of reminding us that we’re all human, connected through shared emotions and experiences.”
- Arthur Blank, Owner of the Atlanta Falcons
“I was born in New Orleans, in Charity Hospital. And I'm one of those people who believes ‘to whom much is given, much is required.’ After Hurricane Katrina, I made a decision that in every storm, not only will I help my family, I will help as many people as possible—and not just in the city of New Orleans, but in the river parishes, too. The Greater New Orleans Foundation has a large reach, and it goes into areas and neighborhoods that people often forget, where not everyone has the means to run from a storm. My values here come directly from my parents. When they tried to calm us in a hurricane, they would remind us of the saying, 'don't swallow the storm.' Then they would tell us, 'Just try to ride it through. And on the other side, help everybody you can.'”
- Donna Brazile, Author, Political Strategist, Contributor to ABC News, & Former Chair of the Democratic National Committee
“At UnitedHealth Group, we work every day to make a meaningful difference in the communities where we live and work. In Louisiana, UnitedHealthcare provides health insurance benefits to over 1 million people, Optum delivers health care services, and in total, we employ nearly 2,000 residents of the state. In times of disaster, the United Health Foundation looks for ways to help. When Hurricane Ida made landfall and caused so much destruction, we were concerned about the people of Louisiana and worked to identify organizations making an impact on the ground. We know from experience that getting resources in the hands of trusted, community-based agencies is one of the fastest ways of delivering assistance to people who have been impacted. We know that the Greater New Orleans Foundation has relationships with many charitable organizations – and knows what needs are being met and which are not. We see the Foundation as a trusted partner helping to address immediate as well as longer-term needs.”
- Christine O’Brien, Executive Director of UnitedHealthcare of Louisiana
Working Toward a Sustainable, Equitable Future
As weather disasters become more frequent, we need to find, and fund, new solutions. We must believe in a future for our region that is greener, stronger, and more sustainable than feels possible—then we must work for that future until we see it come true.
At the Foundation, we are lucky to have fundholders, partners, and collaborators who are working toward that future, too. We know that an equitable, sustainable future is possible for our region, and every day, our partners like Pastor Bernard, Theresa Dardar, John Dias, and Jeray Jarreau are proving it. They’ve faced disasters in Southeast Louisiana head-on. They persist in rebuilding, and we persist in our support. Together, we grow stronger each time.
Isabel Barrios is a senior program officer and our in-house disaster recovery expert. We asked her to describe some key aspects of trust-based philanthropy in a disaster.
How is disaster grantmaking different from other grants the Foundation makes?
Disaster grantmaking is a particular kind of grantmaking that is in response to an event—a disaster. But disaster grantmaking is also very related to the work that we do year round.
The impact of disaster really is about the kind of conditions that people experience day-to-day, the infrastructure, and the quality of housing that they live in. The better-off people are, the less vulnerable they are to disasters. So any foundation that’s working on changing socially-produced conditions is really working on long-term disaster preparedness and mitigation.
How do you pick grantees during such a chaotic time?
We trust people to do the work. And we trust people to know how to best use the funds to help their community.
There is a whole layer of “due diligence” that has to happen in order for us to be able to make a grant. We have to adhere to IRS rules, and so organizations that we give money to have to be in good standing with the IRS.
But our due diligence is also very relationship-driven. We confirm what organizations are doing good work from our existing relationships with nonprofits across the region. We also learn from board members, elected officials, local leaders, program officers, other foundations, and people who are doing work in the field. We look to the people who are loved, trusted, and looked up to.
We also ask our grantees, “Who’s out there doing the work?” They want to tell us. They’re really generous—they want to see other nonprofits get resourced to do aligned, collaborative work.
In addition to that, we read whatever is being reported in the papers or online. And whenever we can, we do visual verifications—we’ll drive out to the place and see what people are doing. We join the state and regional Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) calls, in which organizations share and coordinate their responses as well.
We try to do all of that very quickly. Whenever we know that a storm is barreling in, we’re on our way. We are texting, we are calling, we are checking in with people so that we can have something lined up right away.
To our community;
It was nearly noon on August 29, 2021—the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina—when Hurricane Ida made landfall near Port Fourchon in Southeast Louisiana. It was a Category 4 storm, and its impact was devastating, especially in the Bayou Region, River Parishes, Northshore, Grand Isle, and Plaquemines Parish.
When a disaster like this hits, we often turn to metrics of impact: power lines downed, numbers of buildings and homes destroyed, meters of water level rise. This is critical information to track and understand.
But when we respond to disasters, we respond to people. When the Foundation learned that Ida was coming, we thought about the people we have come to know and love through our work. We knew some of our nonprofit partners were already planning their efforts. Others would take action just after the storm had passed. We stood behind them, and our funders did, too.
In this report, we reflect on that work through a particular snapshot in time—from just before the storm hit, to six months afterwards, in early spring 2022.
Within three weeks of the storm, we’d raised $4 million from 1,300 generous donors. Much of our funding went to “rapid response” grants, through which we can get funds swiftly to nonprofits in the face of emergency. We had supported more than 70 nonprofits, and distributed over $3 million, by October 2021. In this document, we aim to capture the impact of those early grants through stories, data, and photography from our grantee partners themselves.
The damage Hurricane Ida left in its wake is by no means fully repaired, and families and communities are still recovering both physically and emotionally. As yet another hurricane season is upon us, our nonprofits continue to meet our region’s needs, and we continue to support them. Their work grows stronger and more effective every day.
We also know that every day, our efforts around climate resiliency grow more urgent. Our region’s nonprofits are aware of this, and they are working to mitigate the impact of future disasters. By supporting their work, our donors show foresight and innovation—they look ahead, knowing that together, we will build a more secure and sustainable future.
President & CEO, Greater New Orleans Foundation
Doris Z. Stone Chair in Philanthropic Leadership
A Conversation with Kenneth St. Charles
Kenneth St. Charles was new in his role as Vice President for Philanthropy when Hurricane Ida hit. We spoke with him about his experience with the generosity of our community both near and far.
Giving started off strong. Can you tell us about those first few weeks after the storm?
I was just brand new on the job. I was two months in. And basically, when we left work on the 28th, we knew we would be impacted. We made a few initial grants before the storm hit. And then Andy [Kopplin, President and CEO of the Greater New Orleans Foundation] gave us the directive to, you know, “be safe and evacuate, and we'll be in touch.”
The storm hit on Saturday. People were dispersed. I was in Houston. And Andy reached out to me and said, “We have to activate the Hurricane Ida Disaster Relief Fund.” So we put the credit card information on the website, and changed the website to make it accessible to those interested.
My email was on the website, too. So I started getting all of these emails and phone calls while I was sitting in the hotel in Houston. People were saying, “we would like to connect with you so we could discuss sending a gift to help the fund.”
And Andy started getting phone calls too, and he was directing those to me. Many of them were six figure gifts. We did not anticipate that so many national foundations and national and international companies would be moved to support us.
It was clearly not a “nine to five” situation. We were getting calls early in the morning and late at night. We responded as quickly as we could to everybody. When you woke up in the morning, you were working. Many nights in the hotel I spent writing proposals and grants.
Again, I was in my second month, so it was a good learning experience for me. I got to learn a lot about the funders and donors, but also about the level of mission that the Greater New Orleans Foundation has.
And people were so generous, and so persistent in reaching us. I was evacuated for about ten days. And we probably raised about a million and a half dollars, just during those ten days.
Did donors share what motivated their giving?
Especially at first, they did not want to know who was going to ultimately receive the grant. They did not want to know whether it was going to help a particular institution or a particular parish. That was not their interest. Their interest was, “We know that the Greater New Orleans Foundation will be the best vehicle to help get support to the citizens who need it the most.”
We got a phone call from the owner of the Atlanta Falcons and we got a phone call from the owner of the Baltimore Ravens—you’ve got to remember, this is August, and football season was starting in a few weeks. And these two professional football teams, who were very competitive with the New Orleans Saints, did not even blink when they decided that they would both individually make half a million dollar gifts to this fund.
There's a fun rivalry between the New Orleans Saints and the Atlanta Falcons. But the Atlanta Falcons owner, Arthur Blank, his foundation, decided to put all of those rivalries in the rearview mirror in the past, and to really go ahead and make a difference. These were individuals who were not looking for publicity, and they were not looking for any type of gratification, they really were looking to make a difference.
And now, you know, of course, we had a lot of people give who are current fund holders with us. They trust us. They have experience with us, and they know we're providing much-needed support and services to the community. We really are grateful for that level of trust in our role.
What do you want the Foundation's partners, donors, and funders to know?
Thank you is not enough. It is not just thanking you for your gift. It's thank you for believing in our mission. Thank you for trusting us to be good stewards of your gift. Thank you for knowing that you made a difference in the individual lives of citizens.
You know, we support nonprofits. But at the end of the day, the people you're helping are the young people who had no clothes, or a family that had no roof or no home to return to. And you know, at the end of the day, all of our donors—those who gave five dollars to those who gave one million dollars — we thank you for believing in us and for trusting us. For bringing a sense of comfort and relief to those that were probably at their lowest point. Your support of the Greater New Orleans Foundation has truly made a difference both for short term immediate and long term recovery.
The Greater New Orleans Foundation would not have been in a position to make as many grants as we did, had it not been for these generous donors and friends. I would venture to say that, if you define friendship as worrying about your neighbor, we made a lot of friends who trusted us to do good things with their funding. And I'm still touched by it today when I look at the list.
Learn how you can help support future disaster response and recovery efforts when they arise. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.