Fund for Gulf Communities

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, we 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 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 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. We also assisted our partners in deepening their local philanthropic capacity and knowledge, helping them leverage this experience to attract other funders.

Over the three-year grant period, over 127 grants were made to local organizations serving over 800,000 people. RPA also convened grantees to foster partnerships and informal learning, and built organizational capacities around fundraising, governance, program design and outcome measurement.

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. To learn more, watch a short video RPA produced on the project.