A Mammoth Mess
“People are going to put those giving priorities up there now and take a look at where [ANI is] versus everything else. It’s not only about rebuilding those institutions, it’s a part of rebuilding New Orleans,” Schultz says.
“They contribute a lot to the economy as well as the education and quality of life in New Orleans,” he continues. “They’re really an important part of the fabric of the city.”
Schultz says the key now, more than a year after Katrina, is to work at cultivating major gifts from past major donors and one-time recovery supporters, which tend to take more time than the spontaneous gifts given via the Web immediately following the disaster.
Conkerton stresses the need for organizations and departments within organizations to have a disaster plan and to review it on an ongoing basis, as it’s easy to overlook even the most basic things.
“It seems so obvious, but electronic versions of every document that you would need to produce a grant request need to be at the top of a fundraiser’s evacuation list,” she says. “It’s the kind of thing you don’t think of because when you’re in your office, you always have easy access to that information. When you don’t have it, you miss it.”
The question of what to do with staff was something else not readily addressed in ANI’s disaster plan. Communicating with displaced staff with phone lines down and cell phones non-functional was difficult, to say the least. What’s more, with its facilities closed and no visitors to serve — and the fact that it needed every spare penny for recovery efforts — ANI had to let staff go.
“There are decisions that you have to make with limited information that you don’t really think about ahead of time — like how long we’ll be able to pay people, how long we’ll be able to cover them from an insurance standpoint, when do we make the decision to cut positions, what positions need to be cut, all of those types of things,” Conkerton says, adding that ANI went from 700 employees to fewer than 200 after Katrina.