Sandy Fundraising Gaining Steam

November 2, 2012       Patrick Sullivan      

Let the fundraising begin — and continue.

Nonprofits have powered-up the fundraising machines in the name of Hurricane Sandy relief. Meanwhile, several unrelated fundraising appeals slated to launch this week did just that.

The American Red Cross (ARC) has raised more than $11 million for Hurricane Sandy relief. Communications Officer Karen Strecher said the total donation number would be updated “every couple of days.” She added: “Our first priority is getting folks the food and shelter they need.”

According to Strecher, call volume to 1-800-RED-CROSS reached 15,600 on October 31, which is about double the average volume. Of those, 6,100 calls were for people donating. The average number of donation calls per day is 40.

JPMorgan Chase announced it will donate to the ARC: $2 million for emergency response, and it will make available another $1 million to match employee donations to the ARC, World Vision and the United Way. It will also donate up to $2 million to local agencies for recovery efforts such as temporary housing, cash assistance, social services and counseling. Additionally, the financial firm will make available up to $5 billion in incremental capital loans at reduced rates to small and mid-sized business affected by Sandy.

“The pledges that aren’t matches will be immediately available,” said Jeff Lyttle, senior vice president of community engagement. He added that the match period would likely be about two weeks. JPMorgan is also organizing volunteer opportunities. “They haven’t yet been published, but we always try to offer our human capital in addition to our financial capital,” said Lyttle.

Not included in that $11 million for the ARC is $1 million from Kohl’s Department Stores. The department store chain is also encouraging its employees to volunteer with nonprofits involved in cleanup and recovery efforts. “The destruction has been great, the need will be ongoing, and Kohl’s is proud to be in a position to provide financial assistance, as well as volunteer service, to our valued customers, associates and residents along the East Coast,” said Vicki Shamion, Kohl’s senior vice president of public relations, social marketing and community relations.

United Way created the United Way Hurricane Sandy Recovery Fund (#sandyfund on Twitter), with contributions going to local United Ways along the Eastern seaboard for near-term and long-term recovery needs. United Ways participating in the fund annually serve a total 11.9 million people, including more than 1 million people served by United Way of New York City. In the areas where the fund is operating, the hurricane has affected almost 8 million people, according to United Way.

At the request of and in coordination with United Way USA, United Way of New York City will lead fundraising efforts and charge no administrative fees.

A number of organizations have instituted text-to-give programs for $10 donations. Users text a keyword to a five-digit shortcode, and a small charge is added to the user’s phone bill.

  • United Way, text RECOVERY to 52000
  • United Methodist Committee on Relief, text RESPONSE to 80888
  • Red Cross, text REDCROSS to 90999
  • Salvation Army, text STORM to 80888

Human Rights Campaign (HRC) went ahead with the second of its two-email series for its 501c(4) fundraising, adding a P.S. about the storm in the email, and another national email on Tuesday, according to Ann Crowley, membership and online strategy director.

HRC also launched its $100,000 match that Brad Pitt gave for the national marriage PAC, suppressing New Jersey, West Virginia and New York City addresses, according to Crowley. All of the money from Pitt and the match will go to four states with ballot initiatives: Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington.

The Trevor Project, a national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services for lesbian, gay and bisexual and transgender and questioning youth, is still serving at-risk youth despite its New York City office being closed. The East Coast office usually fields afternoon calls. Communications Director Laura McGinnis said she is not sure if call volume has increased, but said that October is a generally challenging time for young people. “Our volume has more than likely gone up,” she said.

In an email message on Wednesday, The Trevor Project reminded supporters that it remains fully operational, redirecting calls to its west coast call centers, and urging supporters to share the lifeline number, especially with “young people who may feel overwhelmed by the tragedy around them.”

Lambda Legal, a New York City-based nonprofit legal organization that works with gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered clients, as well as those living with HIV and AIDS, was forced to evacuate its lower Manhattan headquarters. Executive Director Kevin Cathcart in a Thursday email message suggested reaching out to one of four regional offices: Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas or Los Angeles.

The Community Food Bank of New Jersey has been working closely with New Jersey Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD), the ARC and the Salvation Army since last week’s Hurricane Sandy warnings to prepare for and meet the needs of the many New Jersey residents who have been affected by its devastation.

Despite being without power since Monday, the food bank sent truckloads of ready-to-eat meals and water to the Office of Emergency Management and shelters in Atlantic, Ocean, Somerset, Passaic, Essex, Middlesex, Hudson, Burlington, Monmouth, Bergen, and Cape May counties. Blankets have also been provided to those displaced by flooding in Moonachie and Little Ferry.

In anticipation of the hurricane, the food bank’s Community Kitchen prepared meals in advance that have been distributed to those affected in Atlantic, Cumberland, and Middlesex Counties.

Although it is a relatively new organization, the Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP), based in Washington, D.C., already has experience in responding to domestic disasters. It opened this past July at the same time Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C., were crippled by widespread wind storms, and two of the founders experienced Hurricane Katrina, according to President and CEO Bob Ottenhoff.

Ottenhoff said CDP is focused on long-term recovery and on preparedness for future disasters. “How do we build a community that will bounce back?” he asked rhetorically. “Resilience becomes a big part of our effort as well.” The CDP has established the Hurricane Sandy Disaster Fund using lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina, when donors did not collaborate enough, said Ottenhoff. Money spent will go into long-term recovery of some of the areas hit hardest by Sandy, and to supporting education, planning and mitigation. “The days of toughing our way through storms are over,” said Ottenhoff. “We need to rebuild in a different way.”

CDP will mostly be working with institutional donors: private foundations, community foundations, corporate foundations and high net worth individuals. “The focus is helping donors make more informed decisions about philanthropy and helping to them think about the full arc of disasters,” said Ottenhoff. He said it is too early to announce funding partners or think about how to start spending donations. “The plan this week is to get out of disaster mode,” said Ottenhoff. “We’re still answering media inquiries and dealing with donors. Next week we will begin to think through how we can come up with a plan for recovery and rebuilding.”

Andrew Sears, executive director of the Boston, Mass., nonprofit TechMission, was testing a beta version of a disaster-specific section of the organization’s program ChristianVolunteering.org, which aggregates volunteer opportunities, when Hurricane Sandy ravaged the East Coast. “Basically it was kind of fortunate because just (the week before) we worked on a plan for hurricanes,” said Sears.

Sears and his team worked through the hurricane, always with a wary eye on the news and hoping they wouldn’t lose power. They did not, and the site, HurricaneSandyVolunteer.org, launched just as the hurricane moved inland.

Sears and TechMission work with allforgood.org, a site that aggregates volunteer opportunities, such as distributing food and working at Red Cross, or helping with cleanup with Serve Rhode Island. But HurricaneSandyVolunteer.org also allows users to post their needs, nontraditional volunteer opportunities like tree removal or patching a hole in a house wall. “What we found was that there’s traditional volunteering that the Red Cross (for example) does, and then there’s ‘underground’ volunteering through churches and families” based on the needs of individuals and groups, said Sears.