Fund for Gulf Communities

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

Two years after the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico, communities along the Gulf Coast that depend on marine life for their livelihoods are still struggling.

Families that have fished in these waters for generations are encountering low yields, and many fear their small catches have been contaminated by oil and the dispersant used to counter the effects of the oil spill. Those working in the seafood processing, shipbuilding, tourism, and oil and gas industries also saw their incomes dwindle as jobs disappeared, and in many cases have not returned.

An anonymous donor with a desire to help those communities impacted by the BP oil spill approached RPA for advice, and contributed $20 million to create the Fund for Gulf Communities.

Together with the donor, RPA defined the Fund’s purpose: to help families and individuals who were affected by the spill to access the emergency assistance, mental health and wellness, financial literacy, and employment programs they need to attain self-sufficiency. Because young people face unique challenges when their families are struggling economically, the Fund also addresses youth wellness and resiliency.

RPA Advisory team members James McClelland, Chris Page and Walter Sweet, led by Amy Holmes, identified six partner organizations in four states: Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and the Florida Panhandle. The partners received allocations from the Fund to make grants in their coastal communities to support key services and programs. Over the course of five visits to the region, RPA has worked closely with our partners to develop grantmaking guidelines and priorities, and create systems to capture the impact their grants have on people’s lives. The RPA team is also strengthening local philanthropy by helping our partners become more sophisticated grantmakers. When this project concludes, our partners will be more knowledgeable about their local nonprofit sector, better equipped to support key service organizations, and positioned to use this experience to attract new funders and expand their grantmaking.

By the end of 2011, all the funds had been put to work in the community, and to date, over 100,000 people have been reached through the program. The RPA team is gathering stories from each grantee organization about how their efforts bring stability and security to families and support their recovery.

By contributing to more resilient communities, the Fund for Gulf Communities hopes to build a stronger Gulf region that is better equipped to recover from future disasters and emergencies.