Philanthropy Helps Address Community Needs During COVID-19 Pandemic

Volunteers at the HACAP Food Reservoir prepare and distribute food to families. HACAP – along with 12 other local food pantries – recently received grant funding from the Community Foundation’s COVID-19 Disaster Response Fund. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

As the pandemic and its economic impacts unfold in Linn County, the Community Foundation continues to support nonprofits and promote opportunities for philanthropy.

When COVID-19 reached eastern Iowa in March, the Community Foundation established the COVID-19 Disaster Response Fund in partnership with United Way of East Central Iowa and The Hall Perrine Foundation.  With contributions from several local businesses, organizations and individuals, this fund has raised $375,000 from 63 donors and has allocated over $96,000 to 18 nonprofits so far, making weekly grants in the areas with the most pressing needs.

As nonprofit organizations cancelled events, suspended programs and delayed projects, it became clear that needs would reach unprecedented levels. “At first it was tempting to compare this crisis to the flood of 2008,” said Les Garner, President & CEO of the Community Foundation. “It is clear now that the pandemic is very different. Everyone in the world is being impacted in some way, and it is uncertain when we will be able to say the disaster is over.  Recovery is likely to be a long and slow process.”

Because of this long timeline, a decision was made to rethink the Community Foundation’s unrestricted grantmaking process. Its first grant cycle of 2020 was well underway when COVID-19 began to impact Linn County in March. The cycle was quickly terminated to allow the Community Foundation to re-direct the funds to respond to developing needs. A new grant cycle was quickly established in April with two priorities: to help organizations sustain and maintain essential functions, and to maintain the safety net for vulnerable populations.

Last week, the Community Foundation’s board of directors approved $4,483,220 in grants, including $450,000 from the unrestricted Funds for the Community. Also among the grants were distributions from donor-advised, designated and agency funds, which were processed several weeks early to ensure nonprofits had access to these resources as soon as possible.

“Our staff worked incredibly hard to make these grants happen,” said Karla Twedt-Ball, Senior Vice President, Programs and Community Investment. “The needs, however, are still growing. We received nearly $1.9 million in requests in the first cycle. Local donors have really stepped up, but it is going to take an immense amount of community support to ensure we emerge from this with the organizations that make Linn County a safe and exciting place to live.”

As the challenges emerge and evolve, the Community Foundation will continue to look for new ways to support nonprofits.

For a complete list of the nonprofit organizations who received grant awards from the COVID-19 Disaster Response Fund, Funds for the Community, and Competitive Donor-Advised Funds, click here.

For more details about funding opportunities, click here.

To contribute to the COVID-19 Disaster Response Fund or another fund at the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation, click here.

To view nonprofit resources and virtual peer group schedule, click here.

To view lead supporters of the COVID-19 Disaster Response Fund, click here.