Among the grantees were The Movement Team, which distributed supplies to 16 schools and community centers in Baltimore City, and Student Support Network, which provided food assistance at eight school sites in Baltimore County. Grants to Healthcare for the Homeless and Esperanza Center enabled the dissemination of credible information to homeless and Spanish-speaking communities to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The impact of the funding was immediate. Grantees sent photos, videos, and testimonials about their experiences on the ground, along with many heartfelt letters of gratitude. Student Support Network President Laurie Taylor-Mitchell told us a distribution at Parkville High School was “one of the most wrenching events I have ever experienced. The line of cars stretched as far as we could see for hours.” Altogether, with BCF’s support, the organization handed out food for more than four hours, getting 9,000 pounds of perishables like milk, yogurt and meat and hundreds of bags of non-perishables and household essentials into the hands of anxious families.
Funding for emergency assistance remains critical, but from the beginning BCF recognized that this would be a long and far-reaching fight. As we made that first round of emergency grants, we simultaneously created the COVID-19 Evolving Community Needs Fund to address both urgent needs and those yet to come. We announced the new fund on Friday, March 13 and by Monday morning, funding inquiries were pouring in. The fund was seeded with $50,000 of BCF’s unrestricted grantmaking dollars and quickly augmented with generous gifts from Atapco Properties, The Baltimore Ravens, Bank of America, BGE, Brown Advisory, Constellation, the Exelon Foundation, the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, J.P. Morgan Chase, the Joseph and Harvey Meyerhoff Family Charitable Funds, the Stephen and Renee Biscotti Foundation, Truist Bank, Wells Fargo and many family foundations and individual donors. By the end of April, BCF supporters had committed more than $1.75 million to serve struggling families and neighborhoods in the Baltimore region.
Recognizing that an emergency of this magnitude called for a proportional response, we worked with the United Way of Central Maryland and Baltimore’s Promise to form the COVID-19 Response Funding Collaborative of Greater Baltimore, which quickly grew to more than ten participating funders. Foundations are not usually thought of as nimble, but the Collaborative has the potential to be a model for rapid response philanthropy. Nonprofits can submit one proposal for review by all participating funders, who began meeting weekly in April to review submissions, with each funder applying their own unique decision-making processes and due diligence. This process enables BCF to be responsive to community needs, while providing the level of oversight and stewardship our donors expect of us for our COVID-19 Evolving Community Needs Fund and leveraging our dollars for maximum impact with other funders.
By the end of April, only six weeks after moving to remote operations, BCF had granted nearly half a million dollars from existing program funds and the COVID-19 Evolving Community Needs Fund, while the Collaborative had secured a commitment of $4 million to be disbursed by the participating funders, including BCF. BCF grants have supported organizations reaching especially vulnerable populations in under-resourced communities, such as St. Francis Neighborhood Center, a trusted resource for families and children in Reservoir Hill and Penn North, and Little Flowers Early Childhood and Development Center, which provides daycare for essential workers in East and West Baltimore. In addition, BCF is granting to nonprofits that support economic development in communities of color and will be needed in the recovery process. A grant to Baltimore Business Lending covered lost interest income for three months, during which time BBL waived payments from their borrowers to assist in weathering the impacts of COVID-19.
Alongside the COVID-19 Evolving Community Needs Fund, which will continue to address a wide range of needs as they arise, BCF worked with donors to establish separate funds for specific purposes. Among these are the Baltimore COVID-19 Food Security Fund where corporate donors and their associates can support emergency food distribution efforts. Likewise, the Baltimore County COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund allows concerned residents and businesses to support emergency assistance and health services targeted to Baltimore County.
Finally, BCF has partnered with the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Abell Foundation, the Aaron and Lillie Straus Foundation, PNC, J.P. Morgan Chase, and Goldman Sachs to redirect the pre-existing Small Business Technical Assistance Fund at BCF to help women and minority-owned businesses work with the Baltimore Development Corporation and regional Community Development Financial Institutions. BCF has a longstanding commitment to addressing racial disparities in economic opportunity and the redirection of these funds will help protect wealth and capital created in communities of color by guiding entrepreneurs to grants, loans and federal, state and philanthropic resources.
All of this work has happened remotely and in a very short period of time thanks to our staff’s expertise, strong lines of communication with partners at every level and generous support from donors. With your help, we have been able to keep our finger on the pulse of the unfolding crisis and respond with utmost efficiency – as we will continue to do for the foreseeable future. By all accounts, the effects of COVID-19 will ripple through our community for weeks and months to come. BCF is committed to deploying all the tools available to us—from grant making to impact investing to advocacy—to mitigate the impact and ensure the progress we have made in so many neighborhoods and schools is not stopped in its tracks and that we emerge stronger, together.
To make a donation to BCF’s COVID-19 Evolving Community Needs Fund, visit www.bcf.org/evolvingneedsfund or contact Dara Schnee, Vice President of Philanthropy at firstname.lastname@example.org. ν