BRAF raises $3.6M so far for Louisiana flood relief

The Baton Rouge Area Foundation has raised more than $3.6 million since the historic flood devastated the Capital Region nearly two weeks ago, and it has already given away more than $2 million to individuals and nonprofit organizations affected by the disaster.

More than half of the money raised—$1.7 million—has been donated to employee assistance funds that have been set up by local companies and are being administered by BRAF. Employee assistance funds allow companies to make tax deductible donations to their employees. BRAF is currently administering 40 such funds, awarding grants to affected workers that range in size from $1,000 to $5,000 on average.

BRAF President and CEO John Davies says employee assistance funds have proven over the years to be one of the most effective ways to get communities back on their feet after natural disasters. BRAF administered several large funds for New Orleans-based companies after Hurricane Katrina, and Davies says he has been encouraged by the growth and support of such funds in the Capital Region over the past two weeks.

“They have been immensely important because they are a source of immediate cash for the employees,” he says. “But they also are a sign of commitment and caring on the part of the employer.”

Other funds raised by BRAF are going directly to dozens of area nonprofit organizations that have been hit hard by the flood. The grant process is fluid at this point, Davies says. As funds comes in—which they have been daily—BRAF tries to distribute them to a variety of entities across all affected parishes in the Capital Region.

Much of the money raised by BRAF has come from outside of Louisiana—foundations and funds around the country that have established relationships with BRAF and have responded with generous donations. Davies says BRAF hasn’t applied for any grants so far.

“Our friends have been calling us,” he says. “It’s a pretty small universe, really, and we’ve been generous when they go down, so this is reciprocity.”

Earlier this week, a foundation in Tennessee sent $250,000 from an anonymous donor. This weekend, five concerts around the U.S. will benefit flood victims in Louisiana.

While BRAF is grateful for the outpouring of philanthropic support for Louisiana’s flood victims, Davies says the foundation hopes to raise much more.

“We need to be closer to $10 million than to $5 million,” he says.

—Stephanie Riegel

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