OverFlo: Hurricane Florence Preparation
A natural disaster can hit any Downtown. While Wilmington has dealt with its share of
hurricanes through the years, Florence was different. The storm eyed Wilmington for a week, worked
up to a Category 4 (out of 5) storm, started ashore while weakening to a
Category 1 storm and then…. promptly sat for 3 days dropping record
Wilmington Downtown Incorporated (WDI) led a herculean effort to
prepare for, and then recover from, the hurricane. The organization did so while simultaneously
addressing public policy, fundraising, community engagement and advocacy
efforts. The process included working
closely with Emergency Management personnel, businesses, property owners,
elected and appointed officials, local media and others. Along the way, WDI cancelled two placemaking
events and a fundraiser that normally attracts 300+ supporters and $7,500 in
donations. We instead engaged the
community to create a new task force to conceptualize and direct a month-long
fundraising and marketing campaign shrewdly named OverFlo.
Central to WDI’s leadership was that the Board of Directors cast aside
its existing work program without hesitation.
Additionally, staff dismissed voluntary evacuation orders to be “on the
ground” during and after the storm. This
sped Downtown’s and the community’s recovery.
We crammed six months of events into 30 days including a free benefit
concert with local musicians, an arts auction, a ticketed concert featuring a
national touring act and a golf tournament.
We also coordinated a Downtown tour for the North Carolina
This massive effort raised over $128,000 for six nonprofits providing
food, shelter and other services for hurricane victims. WDI stretched its limited resources to the
absolute maximum and Downtown has rebounded well. This multi-faceted marketing and fundraising
effort happened under the backdrop of a natural disaster by a staff of two and
a volunteer Board of Directors with 38 members.
OverFlo: Hurricane Florence Preparation, Recovery and Resilience
Wilmington Downtown Incorporated