This article explores the impact of Hurricane Katrina on the philanthropic landscape in New Orleans, drawing on the perspective of participants in the field—staff and board members of community, local, and national foundations and key nonprofits—who were surveyed or interviewed for this purpose. It does not offer a definitive statement about the disaster as it pertains to philanthropy; nor does it consider the crucial leadership role of the many individuals involved in the recovery process, even though that role often intercepted with the philanthropic sector. Instead, it seeks to identify general trends that emerge from a qualitative assessment of the collected data. Katrina was in many ways an unprecedented disaster: over a million people fled Louisiana, more than two hundred thousand dwellings in New Orleans were destroyed, 80 percent of the city was at some point under water, and two thousand lives were lost. Taking into account the scope of the impact of Katrina and the role typically played by philanthropy in such circumstances, this article inquires whether and how philanthropic activity was itself transformed by the storm, as interpreted by philanthropic participants.

The narrative that emerges from the analysis is one of significant transformation. Extraordinary circumstances called for extraordinary measures, and members of the philanthropic community responded, deeply transforming the philanthropic landscape in the process. These changes occurred at the local level but also percolated upward to national funders. The most salient examples the participants cited are presented here and are followed by a brief discussion of potentially missed opportunities and lessons learned.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.