In March, as a wave of novel coronavirus cases shuttered schools and businesses, BCF rapidly launched the COVID-19 Evolving Community Needs Fund. The Fund was designed to meet immediate, intermediate, and long-range needs arising from what we knew—even then—would be a challenge unlike any we had ever faced. In just a few short months, generous individuals, families, foundations, and corporations contributed nearly $2.2 million to the effort.
The First Phase
In the first phase of our response, from March to June 2020, BCF awarded more than $912,000 to 88 organizations. These grants supported urgent needs like food assistance, credible information distribution, remote learning technology, mental health counseling, and workforce programs, among others. Students and their families, seniors, immigrants, and other vulnerable groups in Baltimore City and Baltimore County were cared for with food and essential supply distributions by a host of nonprofit partners, including The Movement Team in Baltimore City and Student Support Network in Baltimore County. HeartSmiles provided peer-to-peer mental health training for youth leaders, while hundreds of city residents were engaged in workforce development training to serve as contract tracers on the front lines of this global health emergency. COVID-19 Evolving Community Needs Fund grants also supported remote enrichment programming from nonprofits such as Arts Every Day, the Maryland Book Bank, and Improving Education. Those working to combat intimate partner violence and child abuse received additional resources to adapt and respond to people without the option to safely shelter in place. These are only a small sampling of the nonprofits that received support in the first phase of BCF’s COVID-19 Evolving Community Needs Fund grantmaking. A full list can be found at bcf.org/EvolvingNeedsFund.
Much of our early grantmaking was conducted through the COVID-19 Response Funding Collaborative of Greater Baltimore. Together, with more than a dozen other funders, we reviewed proposals through a central application portal and were able to leverage our dollars to ensure that our resources had the greatest impact without duplicating efforts. When the Collaborative application process closed as planned in late May, BCF staff began gathering feedback from community partners to develop our strategy for a longer-term response. In July, BCF launched a COVID-19 Response Task Force made up of six BCF board trustees and staffed by Laurie Latuda Kinkel, BCF’s vice president of strategy, to guide future COVID-19 response grantmaking.
The Evolving Need: Education Equity
Almost immediately, the group honed in on the education equity implications of the crisis. Prior to the pandemic, BCF-funded research by The Education Trust had identified dramatic racial gaps in student outcomes, which were the direct result of disparities in school funding and access to opportunities. With the need to pivot to remote learning in the spring, the loss of in-person instruction time and summer programs, and the likelihood that most school systems would remain virtual in the fall, we saw the potential for already unacceptable inequities to be blown wide open.
In early September, the COVID-19 Response Task Force awarded $1,000,000 to 24 organizations providing devices, internet connectivity, and technical support; subsidized child care for school-age children; take-home education and recreation kits; and support services like food assistance, rental assistance, and mental health counseling. Among the second-round grantees were community-based organizations like Elev8, which has deep relationships with families and will offer one-on-one and small-group tutoring, as well as home visits, to ensure students remain on track. We also supported organizations reaching especially vulnerable populations, including the Family Crisis Center, which will provide an academic support specialist and devices to children in their emergency shelter and transitional housing center.
We look forward to providing more details on the second phase of our COVID-19 response in the coming months, as we strive to ensure every child has the opportunity to learn and sustain emotional, mental, and physical health at a distance.