Robin Hood’s Sandy efforts: A holiday story
FORTUNE — The evidence that people all over the world love New York City is the 50 million visitors who come here each year. But maybe a truer and deeper measure of affection are the countless individuals from around the globe who have stepped up this holiday season to help the city and the surrounding areas recover from the devastation brought on by Hurricane Sandy.
Though millions of individuals and companies (including Fortune) have volunteered and donated time, money and material in many forms and to myriad organizations, New York City’s Robin Hood Foundation both spearheaded the effort in many ways and serves as reliable proxy for what has been done. In short: the numbers have been equally impressive and heart-warming. And more money and help continues to pour in.
Robin Hood has already distributed $17.6 million to scores of organizations on the front lines with tens of millions of dollars more standing at the ready, much of it raised at its blockbuster 12/12/12 Concert for Sandy Relief benefit. In large part because of the concert, which was broadcast to more than 2 billion households worldwide, $50 million in donations have come in from all fifty states, the District of Columbia, and all major U.S. territories and protectorates including Guam and Puerto Rico, as well as from 85 countries around the world.
“The whole world has created a global community of caring,” says Robin Hood executive director David Saltzman. Just this past week Robin Hood received 2,000 checks versus a typical week of less than 100. But the need is still great, says Saltzman, who notes that some 600,000 homes were badly damaged or destroyed. Ditto 500,000 businesses. “At first it was food, blankets and medicine. Now it’s rebuilding,” he says. (Note: 100 cents of every dollar given to Robin Hood goes directly to charitable organizations that are monitored for effectiveness. See Fortune’s 2006 story The legend of Robin Hood).
Soon after the storm hit, Robin Hood set up a relief committee which includes board chair Lee Ainslie, Managing Partner of Maverick Capital, board member Victoria Bjorklund, partner at Simpson Thatcher, as well as former board member Dirk Ziff, along with Peter Kiernan of Kiernan Ventures and Peter Borish, CEO of Computer Trading Corp. The committee quickly tapped into its deep network of Fortune 500 companies and executives to create a list of corporate partners for the 12/12/12/ concert that reads like a Who’s Who of business. From presenting partner Chase, to GE, Blackrock, State Farm, Delta, Pepsi, Time Warner Cable and NRG, to foreign companies like Hyundai, Samsung and Nestle subsidiary Poland Spring, to digital partners; Foursquare, Google, Facebook, PayPal, Shazam and Twitter, to event organizers Madison Square Garden, Clear Channel and the Weinstein Company. Indeed, the number of businesses helping out was exceeded only by the roster of pro bono rockers which included The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, Alicia Keys, The Who, Kanye West and on and on. (The concert is available at iTunes. Proceeds go to Robin Hood.)
The effect of Sandy was so huge it has caused Robin Hood to alter its mandate, if only temporarily. Until now Robin Hood has stuck strictly to its mission of fighting poverty and helping those in need in New York City. But in this case, “we decided to work in hard hit areas in New Jersey, Long Island and Westchester,” says Saltzman. “The hurricane didn’t respect boundaries drawn by human beings.” Millions in the New York City area, and indeed around the world are taking joy in that decision and indeed in Robin Hood’s efforts overall.