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April 20, 2020

The Philanthropic Response to COVID-19

Image of Cynthia Campbell, Director of PD&R's International and Philanthropic Affairs Division.Cynthia Campbell, Director of PD&R's International and Philanthropic Affairs Division.

During this difficult time, seeing the outpouring of support from philanthropy has been heartwarming. Although HUD provides a vital safety net of programs and assistance, philanthropy plays a much-needed role in helping to fill the gaps. Closing those funding and support gaps is especially critical as the nation responds to the COVID-19 pandemic. We have seen major philanthropies step in with substantial funding.

Citi Foundation, a previous recipient of the HUD Secretary’s Award for Public-Philanthropic Partnerships, awarded $15 million to support coronavirus relief efforts worldwide. Some of these funds will support the United Nations Foundation and the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund. Facebook is also supporting this effort with $20 million in funding. JP Morgan Chase, another previous HUD awardee, pledged $50 million to address public health needs, including $5 million for health care, food, and relief efforts.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is providing up to $100 million to assist in detection, isolation, and treatment efforts; protect the at-risk population in Africa and South Asia; and accelerate the development of vaccines, drugs, and diagnostics. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has been a philanthropic leader in this effort and will supply more funding as we move through this crisis. Jeff Bezos, chief executive officer of Amazon, donated $100 million to Feeding America, which supports 200 food banks nationwide. This donation was the largest ever received by Feeding America. The Walmart Foundation committed $25 million toward relief efforts, including $10 million for food banks, school meal programs, and nonprofits that serve low-income populations.

Local donors have been forthcoming as well. From large donors to local community foundations, philanthropy is stepping up to help support the coronavirus response. The Duke Endowment, based in North and South Carolina, provided a $2.5 million grant to the Central Carolina Community Foundation and the North Carolina Health Foundation. The Kellogg Foundation, based in Michigan, issued a $500,000 grant to the l United Way of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region to support its COVID-19 Disaster Relief Fund. The Lilly Endowment is supporting 46 human services organizations in central Indiana with a $33.5 million grant fund.

Community foundations nationwide play a vital role in organizing the local response to the pandemic, establishing local funds to address immediate needs. Community foundations also act as a central clearinghouse of response efforts. Now more than ever, it is important not to duplicate philanthropic efforts. There must be a single point of contact helping to organize philanthropic responses. For instance, the New York Community Trust, which is a central philanthropic hub for New York City, is managing the NYC COVID-19 Response and Impact Fund. The Community Trust has the expertise to organize a centralized effort to address needs. Major philanthropic donors provide grants to the fund, and the Community Trust, in turn, sorts out the needs and distributes the funding to local nonprofits providing on the ground support.

The NYC COVID-19 Response and Impact Fund is being funded by several major foundations, including Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Robin Hood Foundation, and the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation, to name only a few. The COVID-19 Response and Impact Fund supports a number of immediate needs, including for protective equipment, cleaning supplies, food, and assistance for those sustaining financial losses.

In Birmingham, Alabama, the Community Foundation for Greater Birmingham has established a COVID-19 Response Fund. The Foundation for the Carolinas has done the same, partnering with their local United Way. The Cleveland Foundation has established a COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund. The Chicago Community Trust, the Columbus Foundation, the Pittsburgh Foundation, and the Tulsa Community Foundation have all launched COVID-19-specific funds. In California, the California Community Foundation, a HUD awardee based in Los Angeles, set up a COVID-19 LA County Response Fund. The fund supports health, housing, education, and immigration needs and has already issued more than $1.7 million in grants. The list goes on — nearly every major community foundation in the country has mobilized on-the-ground efforts to assist those in need.

As we continue through this crisis, helping our neighbors, our communities, and our nation is vital. We applaud the efforts of our nation’s philanthropies, both large and small; they are having a major impact on those in need.

 
 
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