Monday, July 22, 2024



How funds and foundations are supporting grantees through the disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic

COVID-19 Exclusive March 17, 2020 Category: FeaturedFundingLongPurpose

Brandywine Health Foundation

We know that during this global pandemic our community will experience a variety of health and financial challenges.

Working with our nonprofit partners, medical personnel, and the county, the Brandywine Health Foundation will create a Healthcare and Economic Relief Fund with the goal to help minimize the health and economic hardship and disruption of safety-net services on the community. It is our hope that other funders, donors and contributors serving Chester County will join the Brandywine Health Foundation in supporting the Healthcare and Economic Relief Fund.

Vanessa Briggs, president and CEO

The Foundation for Delaware County

Today, the Foundation for Delaware County announced a $100,000 contribution to the new Delaware County COVID-19 Response Fund.

Established by the foundation on Friday, the fund is a partnership with area business, government and community partners. 100% of donations will go directly to vulnerable communities in Delaware County by supporting the nonprofit agencies
that are already struggling to manage increased need for services at a time when they simply cannot operate with the usual resources and methods.

We’re grateful that our board chose to step forward so quickly and urge others to come forward as generously as possible during this time of unprecedented crisis.

The foundation is gathering information about how to most effectively provide immediate support, with the understanding that the impacts will be long-lasting and recovery for many will be a difficult process. An advisory committee comprised of Delaware County business, foundation, government and nonprofit leaders will be formed to oversee the funds distributions. Mike Magnavita, president of the Franklin Mint Credit Union, will chair the committee, which will include Brian Zidek, Delaware County Council chairman.

From our Partners

The Fund will identify local nonprofit organizations that have proven track records and are trusted by the communities that are most disproportionately affected by this crisis. Local organizations have the agility, trust, and knowledge to develop extremely effective approaches to engage with communities.

Frances Sheehan, president

GreenLight Fund

At GreenLight Fund, we are taking steps to support our portfolio organizations during this time of uncertainty.

We are in nine cities across the country including Philadelphia, and our standard practice is providing unrestricted, multi-year grants, flexibility we believe is most beneficial for nonprofits, especially now. We also provide on-the-ground support, regularly strategizing and troubleshooting with our portfolio organizations, resulting in deep local relationships. This model puts us in a good position to offer support now.

We are proactively reaching out to each of our portfolio organizations across our cities to be a thought partner and offer support as they navigate challenges on multiple fronts. We are hearing several themes around what would be helpful to organizations. (1) Un-restrict current restricted funding so they have the flexibility to move resources around as needed. (2) Offer support in how to move to and finance innovative, virtual delivery of their programs (3) A request for funders to find ways to make immediate, additional commitments, even if this means pausing strategic planning processes. This is the time to think and act differently and to be responsive to the urgency of this unprecedented moment.

We will continue to stay in close contact, utilize our network of sites and portfolio organizations to share resources, experiences and emerging best practices, and do what we can to minimize the impact on the children and families who are the focus of our work.

Margaret Hall, cofounder and CEO

Knight Foundation

At Knight, we are focused on protecting the health of our staff, our community and our grantees.

We have restricted staff travel and cancelled major events planned for the coming months. We have encouraged our grantees to prioritize their health and that of their communities and have asked them to keep us apprised of their plans as the situation evolves. We’ll respond to specific issues on a case-by-case basis.

Kenny Ma, director of communications

New Century Trust

New Century Trust operates on a Trust-Based Philanthropy model, so approximately two-thirds of our current grants are for general operating support.

This means organizations can re-direct those funds as needed, and that kind of flexibility can be critical in a crisis.

Current grantees with project-based grants have been informed that we understand that program activities cannot proceed as planned and that the grant dollars remain theirs to pay staff for the remainder of the grant period.

We also have strong relationships with our grantees, so we have been in touch with many of them, getting updates and understanding their immediate priorities and needs.

It is too early yet to say how COVID-19 might impact our grantmaking for this year, but we are having internal discussions as well as conferring with colleagues in philanthropy and hope to have a plan within the next few weeks.

On a logistical note, we have switched to a work-from-home model and are investing in higher end virtual meeting tools to facilitate ongoing partnerships while maintaining social distancing and have cancelled plans for events this spring.

Farrah Parkes, executive director

Samuel S. Fels Fund

First we turned to our grantees to ask them what we should be considering as we decide how to best support them.

This is the email we sent to approximately 60 grantees earlier this week (and the responses are flowing in):

Dear Fels Fund Grantees,

As the landscape changes daily in response to COVID-19, we, at the Fels Fund are making adjustments to our operations to take care of you and ourselves. Given the critical calls for social distancing, we are preparing to work remotely and are still accessible to you by phone and email. Our plan is to continue regular business operations while remote. For the time being, we have paused community bookings of our conference room, and will hold any grantee meetings virtually, through video conferencing or by phone. All Beyond the Grant convenings are on hold including our plans for a Spring gathering, with grantees and the local funding community, until we are confident it is safe to do so.

We know that for some of you, you are currently or have already made difficult decisions to cancel events or modify services. We understand this is not easy because essential work often requires close contact with those you serve. We realize that the impact of COVID-19 may have significant impact on your staff, the organization and those you serve.

Most importantly, we want to support you. Is there anything the Fels Fund or the funding community should consider in this moment?

We are all in this together and will get through this together.

Several have postponed their annual fundraisers or cancelled spring performances so we anticipate issues with cash flow. Others have shared how those they serve are disproportionately hit with the fall-out of a pandemic so they are trying to get them phones, tablets and data plans, cleaning supplies and other necessities.

Most of our grants are for general support and we hope this will help our grantees have flexibility to respond. For those who requested and received project support grants, we are open to them requesting a shift in the use of those funds should they need to do so. Prior to the COVID-19, we had surveyed our grantees to ascertain their need for short-term bridge loans and are prepared to make some of those should it be necessary. We certainly don’t want a temporary lack of cash flow to lead to lay-offs, especially when this is precisely the time that our grantees need to be there for those they serve. There are additional recommendations I will be taking to our board when we meet later this month and I anticipate that I’ll have more to share at that time.

My hope is that the pressures on our nonprofit sector that come from this crisis will be a siren call to funders that we need to fund in ways that build more flexibility, stability and trust with our nonprofit partners, not just in an emergency, but every day.

Sarah Martinez-Helfman, president


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