Grantmaking Adjustment Supports Nonprofits

When the pandemic reached Linn County in March, the Community Foundation looked for new ways to help nonprofits through a difficult time. When the derecho hit on August 10, the grantmaking process was adjusted once again.

“It was a disaster on top of a disaster,” said Karla Twedt-Ball, Senior Vice President, Programs and Community Investment at the Community Foundation. “For the second time this year, we had to totally reevaluate how we support nonprofits. We took stock of community needs and tried to make it easier for organizations to have funding to meet those needs.”

In the spring, the COVID-19 Disaster Response Fund was established to minimize the impact of COVID-19 on our community. Additionally, the Funds for the Community were redirected to help organizations maintain essential functions. Restrictions were also removed from grants made in 2019, allowing nonprofits to respond to new economic challenges.

By the time the derecho hit, many nonprofits had been through months of reduced revenue as programs, events, and fundraisers were cancelled or altered. For health and human service organizations, this was on top of increases in demand for services.

“The needs were significant,” said Rochelle Naylor, Senior Program Officer at the Community Foundation. “Organizations were working incredibly hard to meet the basic needs of community members. So far, our focus has been on helping those efforts.”

The Disaster Recovery Fund, established on August 13, began making grants within a week. These initial rapid response grants addressed immediate needs of vulnerable populations. Staff and community partners identified unmet human needs, focusing on those not being met by existing nonprofit or government programs.

Grants from the Disaster Recovery Fund helped organizations like YPN meet basic needs for some of the hardest hit neighborhoods in Linn County.

“Many of the families we serve live in apartment buildings that were severely damaged and became uninhabitable,” said Tisha Ritter, Director of Development at YPN. “Over the next few days, we saw moms, dads, and children living outside. For a full week, until shelter was available, YPN staff and volunteers provided water, food, diapers, tents, and other basic items.” the southwest side of Cedar Rapids, in apartment buildings that were severely damaged and became uninhabitable,” Tisha said. “Our African Moms Specialist and our Hispanic Moms Specialist were great resources during this time as they were able to communicate with families in their native language and provide culturally appropriate meals.”

On August 31, the Disaster Recovery Fund began accepting applications for human needs recovery grants. These are similar to the rapid response grants, but also include mental health services, legal services, and long-term recovery and rebuilding needs.

Soon the fund will transition into recovery grants aimed at filling funding gaps for nonprofit organizations that are crucial to their mission fulfillment. “It will be a long road to recovery,” Karla said. “As the storm moves farther into the past, our grantmaking efforts will shift to focus on returning the Cedar Rapids area to the vibrant place it was before 2020.”

For more information about grant opportunities, click here.

To view grants made so far in 2020, click here.