Summer 2015

Responsive Philanthropy Summer 2015


Written by: Aaron Dorfman

Date: August 29, 2015

A Message from the Executive Director

Hi_Res_Aaron_Dorfman_2010Dear Colleague,

Ten years ago, Hurricane Katrina made landfall in New Orleans, causing unprecedented devastation made all the worse by an infamously inadequate response from the federal government. I was living in Miami at the time, and the eye of Katrina actually passed right over my house when it was still a relatively weak Category 1 storm. After it crossed Florida and entered the Gulf of Mexico, Katrina strengthened and began its march north. I’m sure we all remember being glued to the television as we watched the ordeal unfold. In the midst of this crisis, many in the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors came together to provide immediate relief and begin the process of rebuilding.

In our cover story, Albert Ruesga, executive director of the Greater New Orleans Foundation, reflects on the hurricane’s anniversary in “Philanthropy’s Response to Katrina: A 10-Year Perspective.” In addition to spotlighting the excellent grantmaking that helped make recovery possible, Albert thoughtfully ruminates on the tough questions that still must be answered about social inequality’s continued role in worse life conditions for many in our country.

Next, Douglas Bitonti Stewart, executive director of the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation, explores the importance of community involvement in “Going Further Together: Collective Learning for Impact.” Douglas uses the example of his foundation’s work in early childhood education in Detroit’s Brightmoor neighborhood to discuss how the intended beneficiaries of philanthropy are necessary participants at every level of planning and execution.

Finally, in “Shortcomings of Modern Strategic Philanthropy and How to Overcome Them,” the Insight Center’s Henry A. J. Ramos explores how an obsession with metrics inhibits structural change. Henry offers three recommendations for how foundations can best invest in the communities they serve and align efforts for long-term impacts.

Our Member Spotlight looks at the Ford Foundation, which rocked the sector with a recent open letter declaring its commitment to battling inequality and increasing general operating support.

As always, we hope Responsive Philanthropy is a useful resource for everyone in philanthropy. We are always trying to improve – let us know how we’re doing at


Aaron Dorfman
Executive Director, NCRP