The pandemic is reshaping the landscape of North Carolina in many ways. Our response, as well as that of philanthropy’s overall, must be both immediate and enduring.
How are you responding?
That is the question so many of us in philanthropy are getting these days.
And while it is a little uncomfortable to turn the focus inward during this time, we also feel it is important to be transparent.
The COVID-19 pandemic is becoming the defining moment of our time. And so too will the response. Coming through to the other side will take the collective effort of all sectors – including philanthropy – both in the now and in the rebuilding that will follow.
Since the beginning of the outbreak we have been orienting our resources to support organizations that are focused on rebuilding for greater equity. System- and policy-level changes to address and eliminate disparities and inequities within our communities must come forward as part of the recovery, and it will be imperative that those of us in philanthropy commit to supporting these transformational efforts.
And while we work toward these more ambitious undertakings, we have also been focused on meeting immediate needs of our communities and our grantees. In thinking through where we can be most effective, we have taken the following initial steps as an organization.
Adapting to change
Like many, as the crisis unfolded we quickly moved to remote operations. Presently, we’re still staying home, and we’re staying committed to working with grantees and new partners to respond and rebuild.
Lessening burden on current and future grantees
With community-based and community-facing organizations being tested now more than ever before, we’ve taken steps to not add to their stress. This includes eliminating reporting requirements on existing grants, reducing documentation and streamlining the application process for new grants, and expediting payment processing.
Deploying rapid response funding
Throughout 2020, we approved 89 grants totaling $2.4M in support of immediate COVID-19 relief and long-term community response directly addressing COVID-19 conditions. These dollars are being deployed by staff to support grantees and stakeholders working within our focus areas.
A few early examples included:
- Supporting current grantees with small, unrestricted operating grants to be used as they see fit. There are no proposals or reporting requirements for these grants.
- Bolstering essential reporting by NC Health News and Carolina Public Press to both increase coverage of the pandemic and expand reach into areas with limited local news sources.
- Contributing to a relief fund at the Child Care Services Association to support child care centers’ ability to meet enhanced health and safety standards to keep children and employees safe.
- Supporting NC Child and NC Alliance for Health to partner with others to create shared policy agendas that address weakness in the child care and food systems highlighted as result of COVID-19.
- Engaging statewide leaders in food and food systems in gathering data and stories that highlight food system fractures made more visible by COVID-19 and identifying solutions for system-level changes to create a more equitable food system.
- Investing in grassroots and other smaller organizations working within communities and with populations most at risk during this time.
- Assisting tribal communities in North Carolina in addressing the social and economic impacts of COVID-19.
- Supporting Latinx-led and Latinx-serving nonprofits responding to COVID-19 impacts in Latinx communities.
In addition to new grantmaking, we’ve supported shifts in existing work or grant relationships to address the impact of COVID-19. These efforts have supported:
- NC Medical Society’s implementation of telemedicine in 25 independent practices that participate in the Community-Practitioner Program.
- Latinx Funder Collaborative’s funding an additional grant cycle focused on responding to COVID-19.
- NC Oral Health Collaborative's helping 25 safety net dental practices to develop capacity for teledentistry.
- Weekly virtual self-care check-ins and support to grantees and their organizational partners.
Adjusting to a new reality
COVID-19 has made even more visible the significant holes in our safety net and the disproportionate distribution of social supports in our communities. Many of our systems are stressed, even crumbling, under the strain being put upon them. This new reality is one in which our work for the foreseeable future will be related to the pandemic or its wide-reaching effects. As a result, our pandemic-related response will extend well into the future, concentrated within our four focus areas of early childhood, healthy communities, healthy food, and oral health.
Understanding this is just the beginning
We are inspired by the response we are seeing among our grantees to rise-up and meet these challenges, as well as come together in creative and collaborative ways. We know this is indicative of much more to come. We also know it will be a while before we understand the full impact of the pandemic throughout our state. As a result, it is essential that we all remain focused on increasing equity, be willing to learn and adapt, and commit to promoting change at the systems and policy level.