Innovative Practices

Following are examples of innovative practices that philanthropic organizations have supported, developed and/or implemented regarding advocacy, legal aid and public policy.


Jesse Ball DuPont Fund

Funded approximately 10 paralegals to work in small, rural communities damaged by the 2011 Alabama tornadoes. The paralegals helped individuals understand what they were entitled to and how to apply for assistance. Later, Alabama Legal Services crafted an accessible document that quickly aided survivors and those lending counsel. When the document was forwarded to funders in Joplin, Missouri, following the tornado there, Joplin funders reported that knowing to support legal advisors and the use of this document accelerated that community’s recovery.


Rita Allen Foundation

The Rita Allen Foundation quickly mobilized support for emergency efforts to “get out the vote” in New Jersey when Hurricane Sandy made landfall outside of Atlantic City, NJ eight days before the 2012 Presidential Election Day.  The Foundation supported the Pew Charitable Trusts’ innovative Voting Information Project which is transforming how election information is made available to the public. Widespread power outages, road and school closures, and massive flooding in the days after Sandy, forced the relocation of dozens of polling places.  The challenge was how to alert citizens as to the new location of their polling station, when more than 2.7 million NJ households and businesses were without power and access to normal channels of communication and news.  The Voting Information Project reached more than 243,000 Hurricane Sandy victims in New York and New Jersey with text messages with their voting information through a partnership between VIP and Mobile Commons.  The Rita Allen Foundation also supported of New Jersey’s long-term recovery efforts with a grant to the New Jersey Recovery Fund which supported catalytic and collaborative projects.


Living Cities Funder Consortium in the Gulf Coast

Ensured that the interests of low-income children and families were kept at the forefront of the recovery process.


The New Jersey State Bar Association, American Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division and FEMA

Teamed up to provide free legal assistance to residents affected by Sandy.


Indiana Bar Association

Works with State and local Bar organizations to recruit and deploy volunteer lawyers and paralegals to assist victims with civil legal issues.


Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County

Provided disaster recovery legal assistance for nonprofits. Co-funded by the Community Foundation of Palm Beach and Martin Counties, Quantum Foundation, Lost Tree Village Charitable Foundation, Sun Sentinel/McCormick Tribune Foundation, and the United Way of Palm Beach County, Children’s Services and the Legal Aid Society advised local nonprofits on their insurance claims, proper insurance coverage, accessing FEMA funding, and lease terms. Thirty-Five nonprofits and 89 individuals received comprehensive disaster preparation and recovery services. All claims pursued by the Project had been previously denied by FEMA or private insurance, prior to the Project’s involvement.


Baton Rouge Area Community Foundation

Led and funded efforts to assemble the best planners to re-envision Louisiana’s master plan: Living with Water – Greater New Orleans Urban Water Plan. The Foundation also launched The Water Institute of the Gulf: a not-for-profit, independent research institute dedicated to advancing the understanding of coastal, deltaic, river and water resource systems, both within the Gulf Coast and around the world. The Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority and the Baton Rouge Area Foundation both provided funds to support The Institute’s first years.


Community Foundation of New Jersey and Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation

Funded a survey by the Monmouth University Polling Institute undertaken to establish the full extent of Superstorm Sandy’s impact on the state’s coastal residents, their understanding of the rebuilding process, and their opinions on proposed policies to create a more resilient shoreline. The finding of the survey can be found here.


Minnesota Council on Foundations

Worked with a network of members to identify challenges they have experienced as grantmakers responding to local disasters and needs for state level policy reforms. From a policy perspective, their interest is in identifying helpful changes to state policies and procedures to improve disaster preparedness planning, response and recovery, particularly as they affect historically marginalized communities.


San Diego Foundation

Commissioned, within days of the spate of wild fires in the mid-2000’s, an assessment team that spread out and reported on immediate needs within a week or so of the fires. Their report, along with subsequent re-assessment activities, informed SDF’s continued response over the months and years of recovery and rebuilding.


Community Partners

Guided survivors and survivor community leaders about how, in earlier disasters, there were public policy issues (loans for rebuilding, zoning changes for street widening in mountain communities for fire truck turnaround, new bond issues to raise funds for improvements and water supply, etc.) that needed addressing. They underscore the benefits of placing recovery coordinators in offices of elected officials, such as County Supervisor Mike Antonovich’s appointment of a deputy to cut through red tape after Altadena fires in 1990s.


Gulf Coast Fund

Formed in the weeks following Hurricane Katrina by a consortium of foundations that recognized that it would be important to provide on-going accurate information about potential toxic exposure and the need to establish standards on mold remediation.