Here's One Funder That Was Responsive to Disasters Last Year, With an Eye to Long-Term Needs

A former home in Sonoma County. photo:  RebeccaJaneCall/shutterstock

A former home in Sonoma County. photo:  RebeccaJaneCall/shutterstock

Last year was filled with more than its fair share of disasters. The cost of the hurricanes in Florida, Texas, and Puerto Rico, as well as the wildfires in California and other disasters, is likely to exceed over $300 billion, according to the U.S. government. But even that startling figure doesn't begin to capture the hardship that last year's disasters inflicted. Such events nearly always exacerbate economic and racial inequities, often in ways that are hard to see. 

Through last year, we covered how various funders responded to disasters—some with a specific eye on vulnerable populations, like the funders who stepped up to help Latino immigrants in Sonoma County after the wildfires there.

We also wrote about the growing influence of the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, which has been pushing the funding community to think more strategically about its giving to address disasters. A key point that CDP stresses is that funders need to focus greater resources on long-term recovery needs—the arduous work that often remains long after the media and most donors have stopped paying attention. 


The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation is an example of a funder that’s well aware of the extended effects of natural disasters and the importance of looking beyond emergency relief. In an end-of-the-year message from the Hilton Foundation's president, Peter Laugharn, he wrote, “Without a thoughtful long-term response, the underlying disparities that exist along race and class lines will also deepen.”

Hilton is also one of the few funders we can think of that responded to all of the top disasters in 2017 at a substantial level. 

In 2017, the foundation gave $350,000 to the Northern California Fire Fund for its relief and recovery work. The goal of this grant was to reach the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people affected by the fires. Similarly, the Hilton Foundation gave $250,000 to the Northwest Assistance Ministries after Hurricane Harvey and $400,000 to the Puerto Rico Community Foundation after Hurricane Maria. In total, the Hilton Foundation committed $1.35 million through its Disaster Relief and Recovery program for both immediate relief and long-term recovery efforts. Hilton also chipped to provide support to people affected by the Southern California wildfires that raged around the end of the year. 

Before the close of 2017, the Hilton Foundation announced its fourth quarter grants, which totaled more than $29 million and brought the yearly total to over $121 million. The good news is that grantmaking has been on the rise with this funder, as the 2017 total exceeds 2016 by over $10 million.

Homelessness and foster youth continue to be the top local causes in Los Angeles for this funder. New local homelessness grantees include the Genesis LA Economic Growth Corporation and the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. Meanwhile, the Alliance for Children’s Rights and United Friends of the Children received Hilton grants for their foster youth programs in the city.

We’re also expecting the funder’s vision to be filtered through the results of the recent Portrait of Los Angeles County report, which it helped to support to examine local wellbeing and access to opportunity using a human development index and framework.

A full list of Hilton Foundation grants, as well as the yearly total broken up by category, can be found here. The foundation currently has assets of approximately $2.6 billion.