A month ago, we noted how CFLeads investors are stepping up in the time of COVID-19, rapidly creating response funds to help alleviate the breadth of challenges facing families and businesses all across the country. We have also seen our investors step up in other ways, looking up from the 12-hour workday that comes with responding to a crisis to think ahead to what this pandemic will mean for communities after the public health concerns abate.
Upon reading many of the pieces our community foundation investors have produced the past couple of months, we noticed that they are pursuing several common approaches to tackle this pandemic and economic devastation. They are celebrating the common good, bringing everything they have to the table, and working to build a better future for all.
We’ve highlighted many of the great words our investors have shared here, and hope they serve as an inspiration to the community foundation field as you continue leading during this difficult time.
Celebrating the Common Good
One common theme in our investors’ messages was that this pandemic has highlighted the innate goodwill that exists in our communities. As Dick Ober of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation notes, people are stepping up everywhere, from health care workers and emergency responders to essential workers and nonprofit organizations to reporters and donors.
Mauri Ingram, in Extraordinary Generosity Builds Resilience, writes about the power of philanthropy and the “happiness trifecta” that giving, whether it be money or time, produces. Stuart Comstock-Gay, President & CEO of the Delaware Community Foundation, has also seen an increase in generosity as a result of this crisis and asks in an op-ed if we can commit now to maintain this “overflowing of good will” in the future.
Working in Fairfield County, one of the hardest-hit counties of the country, Juanita James writes in an op-ed about the importance of paying it forward as we confront the short- and long-term implications of this pandemic together, and the opportunity we have to play a shared role in rebuilding.
As the various domino-like impacts of COVID-19 unfold, it becomes increasingly obvious that our lives are inextricably bound together.
Bringing Everything to the Table
Despite the goodwill and generosity of our donors and communities, it is important for us to accept that this crisis cannot be solved by philanthropy alone. The systemic issues we face are simply too enormous for us to take this on ourselves.
However, Peter Dunn, President & CEO of the Central New York Community Foundation, writes in a blog post that community foundations still have an important role to play to push for systemic change. We must act quickly, deploy resources to fill gaps or prove up ideas, and create support for a scaled up response from our government partners. The Pittsburgh Foundation, for example, has been using their position as “philanthropic first responders” to support large-scale systems and government agencies, including the Health Department and Department of Human Services.
We are not going to do less because investment markets are chaotic and volatile; we are going to do more, because the community needs us to be leading in this way.
Similarly, Fred Blackwell, President & CEO of the San Francisco Foundation, writes that “no amount of money will fix this without addressing the underlying policy issues that exacerbate inequity.” In his piece, Meeting the Moment, Fred shares that in addition to the San Francisco Foundation’s grantmaking dollars, they are using our power to convene the community, their relationships with decision-makers, and their own voice to address the underlying policy issues that deepen inequity.
Policy is where we can get the scale we need to make real change.
Other CFLeads’ investors who have written about the different roles community foundations can play include The Minneapolis Foundation’s Bethany Madetzke, who shares a personal message about how community foundations can be champions of hope, and Shelly O’Quinn of Innovia Foundation, who makes the case for the power of collaboration and building social capital in times of need.
Building a Better Future
Although rebuilding after COVID-19 seems distant, our investors are already looking ahead to what the future can look like for their communities.
Paul Grogan of the Boston Foundation sends a clear message in his recent letter, COVID-19, Community, and a Chance for Real Change. The pandemic has laid bare what the people who are struggling in this country already knew: We are living in a profoundly unequal society. As Paul writes, we see this in the statistics of those who have died as the result of this virus, of those filing for unemployment, and of those who are still going in to work every day because they have been deemed “essential,” despite their low pay and lack of supports.
In particular, health disparities, poverty and underlying health conditions within the African American and Latino populations have magnified COVID-19’s impact. The Community Foundation of Greater Flint is hoping to combat this by launching a cross-sector task force on racial disparities, which will identify concrete steps that can be taken now to mitigate the impact over the next 18-24 months before a COVID-19 vaccine is approved and readily available to the general public.
The full social and economic impact of this virus is still unknown, but it is clear that all of our communities will be affected, possibly for years to come. As we look ahead to what many are calling our “new normal,” Neil Steinberg of the Rhode Island Foundation argues that we must not settle. We must focus on building a better future for all, as the “old normal” left too many people behind, especially in underserved communities and even in very good times.
Neil shares words of encouragement that can apply to community foundations across the country: be willing to use your voice and resources for the greater good and to embrace the size, strength, and diversity of your communities. He encourages us all to ensure that the plans we make and the actions we take reflect where we want to be, not where we have been.
We know community foundations are working around the clock to respond to this crisis in real-time. We want to extend our support and our thanks to all who have stepped up, and we look forward to working with you to build a better future for all communities in the months and years to come.
We’ve endured so much – and there is more to come – but hope abides and a better future awaits.
Here are some of the other ways our community foundation investors are using their voice during this challenging time:
- Albuquerque Community Foundation has a blog series called Responding to the Challenges of COVID-19. You can read Parts 1, 2 and 3 here.
- The Chicago Community Trust has written an open letter to the Chicago region’s nonprofit community, and posted a blog entitled Why We Serve: Continuing a Tradition of Emergency Response in the Region.
- The Community Foundation of Collier County is sharing updates through their Collier Comes Together newsletter.
- The Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts has shared a hopeful message to the nonprofits serving Pioneer Valley communities.
- Barbara Fields of the Greater Worcester Community Foundation shared her reflections from seven months into the job and seven weeks into the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The New York Community Trust shares a clear message: When Our City Needs Us, We’re Here.
- Diana Anderson writes about the importance of staying connected in times of crisis in the Southwest Initiative Foundation’s most recent CONNECT newsletter.
Did we miss you? If you have something you’ve written that you’d like to share on our blog, please reach out to Melody MacLean at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are not a CFLeads investor but would like to become one, visit Support Our Work.