Baton Rouge nonprofits brace for the long-term impact of Louisiana’s epic August flood

    Like many nonprofit organizations, Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital Area holds an annual fundraising event each fall, the lynchpin of a fourth quarter push to secure current year operating funds.

    Last year, the agency’s popular Walk/Run to Remember netted more than $133,000 in cash from 136 participating teams, and another $93,000 in corporate sponsorships. It was the best year on record, Executive Director Barbara Auten tells Business Report in the cover story from the new issue.

    This year was a different story.

    Scheduled two months after epic flooding swept through the Capital Region, the normally robust Walk to Remember saw a significant drop in participation. The number of teams walking in the Oct. 15 event fell to 101, and the donations they raised slipped to $72,900—about half the amount raised last year. Corporate sponsorships fell by $16,000. The total number of walkers dropped 35%.

    Meanwhile, demand for the agency’s services this fall increased by about 50% due to a natural disaster that upended the stability of tens of thousands of area families from nearly every demographic and strata.

    “There are so many challenges for this population that were exacerbated by the flood,” says Auten. “For individuals affected by dementia, being displaced and living in a strange place agitates them and puts a lot of stress on their caregivers.”

    Nearly four months after an unforeseen weather system brought bewildering damage to south Louisiana, government officials, economists and social services providers are still trying to decipher its long-term impact.

    But for nonprofit agencies, a crystal clear trend is emerging. Demand, at least temporarily, is threatening to outpace the ability to raise commensurate funds. Regional executive directors say they’re bracing for a challenging 2017 as the need to support flood relief in its many forms continues at the same time that donors are financially pinched. Many suffered their own losses or are providing financial support to friends and family. Others gave quickly to flood relief, and are holding back additional gifts until further notice.

    “The general consensus among us nonprofits is that next year is going to be a tough year for fundraising because those people who gave to multiple organizations are still going to be helping families next year and helping that recovery effort,” Auten says. “We all feel like it’s going to be tight.”

    Read the full Business Report cover story. Check out related stories on how the local Salvation Army and food bank are raising funds to repair flood damage, and on how crowdfunding sites like GoFundMe are posing another challenge for local nonprofits. Send your comments to editors@businessreport.com.

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