May 27, 2020
Crises can bring out the best in people. We are seeing just that from healthcare professionals and local law enforcement to essential workers at the local grocery store and delivery service. Many groups of people and organizations have stepped up in this time of need. Their ability to adapt quickly has been nothing short of inspiring.
Another group of people has begun to rally, adjust and fulfill their missions like never before. I am talking about the philanthropic organizations that are using donor dollars to support their local communities at a time when they are needed most. Support for COVID-19 relief efforts, job training and unemployment support, organization of food banks, providing grants and scholarships more quickly, and being a backstop to smaller nonprofits in their community who lack the funding and staff to navigate through this uncertain time.
Late in April, close to 700 foundations joined a pledge by the leaders of the Ford Foundation to provide general operating support grantees, reduce the number of required site visits and written reports, provide relief to grantees that miss deadlines or cancel events and support advocacy efforts to ensure a reasonable response to the virus and the economic hardships it has created. Many philanthropic organizations are calling on foundations to give more generously and to dig into their endowments. Our experience is that those organizations that can provide are providing.
The responses from big organizations and philanthropists has been amazing. According to candid.org which tracks US foundations, the donations through April for COVID-19 responses has totaled $8.3 billion. Everyone from Jeff Bezos to Oprah to Leonardo DiCaprio are supporting food banks. Bezos' $100 million dollar gift to Feeding America is the largest in the organization's history. Great stories and very impactful! I also enjoy reading how the smaller donors and communities are supporting each other in various ways. Here are some actual examples of philanthropic organizations helping their local communities:
- Dakota Medical Foundation and their Helping Hearts program has put together COVID-19 Crisis Support efforts for the local communities in Fargo, ND and northwest Minnesota. Their Critical Services Fund has distributed around $200,000 in emergency grants.
- Berks (PA) County Community Foundation is rallying supporters to meet the needs of local social service agencies, childcare organizations and counseling agencies providing critical mental health service care. BCCF has also placed an emphasis on helping local arts and cultural organizations who have been stung by canceled performances, closed exhibits and other activities that have dramatically impacted their revenue.
- Lehigh Valley Community Foundation has partnered with other funders and leaders in the area to create the Greater Lehigh Valley COVID-19 Community Response Fund. This fund will help those who have been disproportionately affected by the virus - from older adults, to people experiencing poverty and homelessness, communities of color and those where English is a second language.
- Harrison County (IN) Community Foundation is covering childcare costs for healthcare, emergency and essential workers in the county by partnering with the Boys & Girls Club and the local YMCA.
This is just a small sample of some of the impact local charities have on their communities. The big donations are widely reported, but your contribution and work with these organizations can have a lasting impact on your local community.
Here at Cornerstone, we support and continue to partner with our nonprofit clients. We want to provide a voice and venue for charities all across the nation to share best ideas and practices. So, we are excited to announce our venture into the podcast world with the launch of Cornerstone Unplugged! Every few weeks we will have conversations with various leaders of not-for-profits. We will discuss with them their local organizations, the challenges they have had to overcome, strengths and ideas in fundraising, governance, committee structure, communication, budgeting, etc. We hope you will be able to take some of their insights and apply it to your local non-profit no matter if you are staff, board member or a donor.
Check out our first podcast, subscribe to it on Google podcast, Spotify, Anchor or Apple. Or just give a click to our website and listen to it there. They are short 30-minute discussions and great to listen to while cutting the lawn, walking the dog, sitting on the beach or going for a run. I hope you find it insightful and a little entertaining.
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