New Orleans is a coastal city. Situated where the Mississippi River Delta becomes the Gulf of Mexico in Southeast Louisiana, New Orleans is strategically positioned for commerce; however, its location also defines its most existential threat. Due to coastal subsidence, south Louisiana is facing the highest rate of relative sea level rise in the world.

When a disaster strikes, it always exacerbates pre-existing socio-economic conditions. In New Orleans, areas of high flood risk coincide with areas where large concentrations of people of color and low-income residents live. Ironically, these areas of high flood risk occupied by a considerable number of low-income and people of color are also areas that have experienced significantly higher numbers of COVID-19 cases compared to other areas in the city.

We understand that living in the Greater New Orleans region means it is not “if” a disaster strikes, but “when.” Since 2016, GNOF has responded to more than 16 local and regional disasters making targeted disaster recovery and resilience investments. In 2020, in addition to responding to the COVID19 pandemic, GNOF also responded to the earthquakes in Puerto Rico and successive Hurricanes Laura, Sally, Beta, and Zeta, making nearly $7M in grants.

Clarity of focus, an articulated disaster grants strategy, a game plan for the entire Foundation, and prepositioned dollars available in our Disaster Response and Restoration Fund made GNOF ready to respond quickly when COVID19 struck. We were able to make $40,000 in grants within 48 hours of our region going into lockdown and immediately launch fundraising efforts among our donors, board, local philanthropy, and national partners. Our immediate focus was to support the following vulnerable populations who were most impacted by the pandemic: senior citizens, wage workers, opportunity youth, homeless, returning citizens, and undocumented people. In addition we prioritized safety and slowing the spread, addressing health disparities and healthcare access, legal services, and food security.

Read the full article about responsive grantmaking by Carmen James Randolph at PEAK Grantmaking.