Philanthropy: Who Gave What for Katrina Relief

A survey of donors in the aftermath of the Gulf Coast hurricanes finds corporate foundations were the leaders in funding recovery efforts

Foundation Center released a report on Aug. 9 titled "Giving in the Aftermath of the Gulf Coast Hurricanes: Report on the Foundation and Corporate Response," the second of a series of three reports on the subject. The first was released earlier as a summary of immediate findings, and the third will be released in about a year to create a more complete account. It can be found and downloaded at

For the report, Foundation Center surveyed more than 3,500 large private and community foundations with 906 usable responses. Of the 906, nearly one-half (47.7%) responded as having provided some level of hurricane relief support. Those 435 institutional donors accounted for $577.1 million in relief and recovery efforts as of the beginning of June, 2006.

While corporate foundations showed relief participation levels of 75.6%, the highest of the three areas compared—corporate, community, and independent—they were also the least likely to fund new grantees. Instead, those corporate foundations favored disaster-relief agencies such as the American Red Cross, which received 32.7% of the designated support from all respondents. By contrast, 62.7% of community foundations participated. They were the most likely to fund other community foundations in the affected regions, with three out of four supporting new grantees. Of the independent foundations, just under half (46.9%) reported funding new grantees.


  Surprisingly, 78.5% of donating foundations finished funding their pledges by January, 2006, without anticipating needs for further support, and 93% of donors intend to be done funding by September, 2006. While so many foundations are decisively finished with funding, the continuing donations are largely geared toward long-term rebuilding and restructuring. For example, cereal maker Kellogg announced in late July a $12.5 million pledge to aid rebuilding efforts in the area.

The majority of money donated—59.4%—was allocated to support the "immediate human-services needs of disaster victims." The longer-term commitments ranked significantly less with housing development claiming 7.3%, education and educational reform 6.6%, health and mental health services 3.2%, and economic and community development at 2.2%.

The report also found that aid for Hurricanes Katrina and Rita largely didn't result in foundations giving less money to other causes. Only 15.6% of respondents were forced to reduce their support of other programs.

In the survey, Foundation Center asked about the role the different types of foundations should play in disaster relief. The responses were wide-ranging, from "Private philanthropy cannot replace national governments, international aid, or disaster relief organizations," to "Corporate foundations should take the lead in modeling aid in extraordinary times." The series of disasters "really has made grantmakers think about their role and what it should be in responding to these disasters," says Steven Lawrence, co-author of the report and director of research for Foundation Center.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE