President’s Blog: Disaster Grantmaking
By Dan Baldwin, CFMC President/CEO
A year ago no one could have foreseen what would transpire in Big Sur. The main issue then, and into summer, was trying to deal with more cars and people than a two-lane windy coastal road could manage. On the plus side, the surplus of tourists brought dollars for dinners, overnight stays, groceries and gas. People vs. prosperity vs. delicate ecosystem has forever been the dynamic tension in Big Sur.
Everything changed on July 22, 2016.
Soberanes Fire Fund
An illegal campfire eventually became the Soberanes Fire – the most expensive wildfire in U.S. history, leaving 132,127 acres burned, including 57 homes. 5,000 fire personnel were assigned to the blaze. The CFMC immediately started the Soberanes Fire Fund.
The community response was remarkable. More than $950,000 was given into the fund, which was set up to assist families in need, but also aid in special infrastructure projects.
We established a Fire Fund grant committee, made up of veteran grantmakers and people from Big Sur, and developed a working partnership with the Coast Property Owners Association (CPOA). CPOA already had established systems for identifying and vetting needs.
We all wondered what would happen if we had a wet winter. How would the fire-affected areas, particularly in Palo Colorado, with steep hillsides and no underbrush, respond to heavy rains? With those concerns in mind, we held some funds back so we could respond if rains created problems, such as culverts blowing out or residential roads eroding.
What we didn’t anticipate was historic rainfall and the havoc it would create in all of Big Sur, not just fire-affected areas.
As we all know, mudslides and the closure of Pfeiffer Bridge has temporarily (we hope, temporarily) closed many iconic businesses, and created financial risk for as many as a thousand folks who make their living in Big Sur. Families have been displaced, and some stranded.
Big Sur Relief Fund
A few weeks ago, I received a call from Carmel restaurateur David Fink. He and several others were concerned about the plight of Big Sur workers and families and wanted to raise money to start a fund. Within a few days the Big Sur Relief Fund was up and running.
I guess I should quit being surprised by the concern and philanthropic spirit of Monterey County that continually arises in the aftermath of disasters. We’ve had to start four disaster funds in the past three years, and we were also involved in getting resources to the Food Bank in the aftermath of the arson of the headquarters in 2015.
The outpouring is amazing, and we’re proud to be in a position to facilitate a philanthropic response when bad things happen.” – Dan Baldwin, CFMC President/CEO
Disaster Grantmaking Requires Great Care
A few words about “disaster” grantmaking: it’s not easy. Emotions are high. Families are in distress. There’s never enough resources. Donors have high expectations that all monies will be granted responsibly. We not only accept these responsibilities, we embrace them. Which is why we take great care to form knowledgeable grant committees, create clear grant guidelines and develop partnerships with nonprofits that are deeply embedded in the affected communities.
The CFMC’s motto is “Here For Good.” Good today and good tomorrow.
For more information on grant guidelines, click the links below, or contact Laurel Lee-Alexander, Vice President of Grants and Programs at (831) 375-9712
Top photo – Kodiak Greenwood, Soberanes Fire photo – Calfire, Big Sur Relief photo – Kodiak Greenwood, Dan Baldwin Photo – Randy Tunnell