In the span of only eight months, the COVID-19 pandemic has drastically impacted everyday life from a physical, emotional, and economic perspective. Every sector has been touched. Every business has been changed. Every community has been transformed. Every person has been impacted.
While many of our nonprofits have been overburdened in response to community need, we have also watched foundations, private businesses, municipalities, and individuals stand up, step forward and band together to support one another cross-industry.
There is no doubt COVID-19 has changed philanthropy.
More than 750 philanthropic institutions nationwide, including Pikes Peak Community Foundation, have recognized the extraordinary impact the pandemic has had on our communities and have signed a pledge to support nonprofits in the following ways:
• Loosen or eliminate restrictions on grants, and make new grants as unrestricted as possible, so nonprofit partners have maximum flexibility to respond
• Communicate proactively and regularly about decision-making, and reduce what is asked of our partners, postponing reporting requirements, site visits, and other demands on their time
• Contribute to community-based emergency response funds and other efforts to address the health and economic impact on those most affected by this pandemic
• Support, as appropriate, grantee partners advocating for important public policy changes to address the pandemic and deliver just emergency response for all
At an individual level, according to a survey by Fidelity Charitable, a quarter of nonprofit donors plan to increase their gifts in response to COVID-19, while 54% plan to maintain giving levels. Younger generations plan to step up donations in greater numbers; 46% of millennials say they will give more, compared to 14% of baby boomers and 25% of Gen X.
Philanthropy has changed.
Through the COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund, our community of foundations and individuals provided more than $1.2 million in emergency funding to El Paso and Teller county nonprofits serving the most vulnerable populations and providing urgent basic needs for food and shelter. We were inspired by such generosity, which led to even greater impact through Exponential Impact’s Survive and Thrive Small Business and Nonprofit Loan Fund, the Downtown Development Authority Small Business Relief Fund, Bee Vradenburg Foundation’s Artist Recovery Fund, and El Paso County’s CARES Act small business and nonprofit relief funds, among other efforts, totaling more than $20 million in philanthropic giving.
In turn, this process illuminated the fact that need has increased for a broader range of organizations who make our community stronger, healthier and culturally dynamic.
Locally, a collaborative of funders has come together to consider how we can best help the community as we approach long term recovery. In addition to continuing to support short-term needs, we are focused on resiliency planning to stabilize the organizational health and sustainability of our nonprofits.
Backed by regional foundations, many nonprofits are examining how to preserve, expand, and reshape the way they serve people through scenario planning, financial mentoring, and resource management.
Scenario planning provides nonprofits the opportunity to think beyond the pandemic. When the crisis subsides, do we want to continue with the status quo or leverage this moment to implement systems change?
It has also become clear that philanthropy alone cannot support the whole of nonprofit needs. Equally so, government support for businesses, which has been significant in the last eight months, will not continue indefinitely.
We have learned that partnership is paramount. We believe that the public, private and philanthropic sectors must engage in priority-setting conversations. As we continue our work to make our community a great place to live, work and play, all three sectors must be in lock step. By aligning these sectors, we can identify shared priorities, visualize possibilities, and dedicate resources so, together, we can accelerate recovery.
Philanthropy has changed and we must continue to be creative and open doors to new, nontraditional opportunities. Funders are looking for ways to maximize impact and leverage more of their resources, either through partnerships or exploring unique ways to problem solve — whether it is innovative uses of collaboration, ideation or capital.
Let us stand committed to keeping the lines of communication open, seeking creative solutions, and recognizing that “the power of us” will lead to a better tomorrow.
Gary Butterworth is the CEO of the Pikes Peak Community Foundation, a coalition of funders who have made an estimated $123 million investment in our region since 1928.