April 22, 2015
Most of the gifts to the New Jersey Recovery Fund were made between December 2012 and March of 2013, totaling approximately $7.1 million. Many of the contributors had specific goals for their funding that we honored as we pursued the grantmaking. Some of the goals were for specific projects – like an insurance resiliency analysis — while others were for broader categories like funding for arts organizations to assist in recovery; aid for community health; and community and environmental planning. We solicited proposals for funding in the first quarter of 2013 and allocated the majority of funding by June of 2013.
One of the lessons that we learned is that recovery funding is a bit of a paradox: while endeavoring to focus on the long-term, there is also a strong need for fast action. The community planning resources supported by the fund offers an illustration of these two competing forces at work. The amount of devastation wrought by Sandy and the prospect of sea-level rise, we believed, could create an environment where many of our communities might think differently about their future resilience and begin planning accordingly. At the same time, communities are confronted with the pressing and understandable demands of residents wanting to get back into their homes in the shortest time possible.
NJRF supported a network of community planners – both embedded in communities and available to regions – to assist local towns with planning their future. The Local Recovery Managers (housed at New Jersey Future) and the regional Resiliency Network Managers (managed by Sustainable Jersey) are doing valuable work gathering information, establishing networks of support, and assisting residents in navigating the various programs and resources available to them. However, since most residents and public officials in New Jersey’s coastal areas are focused more on immediate (now over a year) recovery, and less on long term planning, the full impact of these community resources are yet to be realized.
Even if we had been in position to deploy the planning network immediately after the storm, we likely would have met the same resistance from those most impacted and unable/unwilling to look beyond their own immediate needs. As the work of all of the grants made by NJRF unfolds, we will continue to ask ourselves, and those involved in the Recovery Fund, what are the best ways to deploy philanthropy in a disaster recovery. We hope this analysis can be helpful to New Jersey or other communities outside New Jersey in the event of a similar disaster.
The work of the grantees is in its final months, though we expect that some of the work will extend through January 2015.