How Can I Help?: Center, JBJ Soul, UBS & Others Partner to Build Back Better in NJ after Hurricane Sandy


In October 2012, Hurricane Sandy killed more than 150 people in the U.S. and caused an estimated $65B in damage – making it the 2nd costliest U.S. hurricane.  Initially, our Center developed guidance on how to provide immediate relief and enable short-term recovery. But as in most disaster-affected communities, philanthropic support and media attention fade far more quickly than communities are able to recover. ‘Building back better’ is a long process, requiring many partners and a spectrum of investment opportunities. Here we discuss an important year-long collaborative effort, recently featured in the New York Times.

As the second anniversary of Sandy approached, Jon Bon Jovi’s Soul Foundation and their advisors at UBS had a clear goal: help affected New Jersey counties build back better.  They wanted to partner to better understand ongoing housing insecurity in these counties and continue refining opportunities for how the Foundation and others could support those still in need. They asked if we could help.

We, of course, jumped at the chance! This partnership drew on our previous foreclosure prevention guidance and our ongoing work on disaster response. Most importantly, they asked a question that we and our colleagues at Wharton Social Impact Initiative ask every day:

How can we leverage more available tools – both grants and impact capital – to be powerful drivers of social impact?

With support from the JBJ Soul Foundation, our team conducted an independent review of need in Sandy-affected areas and identified possible philanthropic and ‘impact investment’ solutions. To find the best available answers, we spoke to over 25 experts and consulted more than 40 pieces of academic research and informed opinions by disaster relief organizations, journalists, foundations, state agencies, and more. Given our previous work, we were quickly able to tap our partners at the Disaster Accountability Project, colleagues with community development finance expertise (Calvert Foundation, NJ Community Capital, Community Capital Management), and existing research to assess on-the-ground needs and potential solutions.

The Power of We

With the help of our findings, UBS and JBJ Soul are now leading a new coalition of companies and leaders called Impact New Jersey, which pairs place-based investments with a fixed rate of return with market-rate investments. Investment funds are directed to key partners working in targeted areas: affordable housing, mortgage relief, and local economic development. This innovative approach brings together a unique partnership among investors, donors, and community partners to drive social change, hopefully paving the way for similar initiatives.

“People who want to do good with their money can see positive impact in communities and help with long-term recovery while earning money,” says Bon Jovi of the collaboration. “Imagine what a difference we can make with the ‘Power of We’.”

Read more about our work with JBJ Soul’s impact investing initiative in NJ in the New York Times.

To learn more about Impact New Jersey, please contact Maria Tanzola, UBS Private Wealth Advisor, at

With particular thanks to Ben Smilowitz and Julia Pergola, Disaster Accountability Project, and Christina Saggiomo, Research Assistant, Center for High Impact Philanthropy, for their input on this effort.