When the pandemic hit this spring, there were immediate concerns over the basic needs of people and how to make sure those were being met. A joint effort between the Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln and United Way of Central Illinois came through in a big way.
The COVID-19 Response Fund, launched in March, wound up awarding nearly $1 million to 85 organizations as of July.
"It was a remarkable thing in my mind, especially in the speed in which money came in and went out," said John Stremsterfer, the Community Foundation President and CEO. "It wasn't the measured approach we often take with grant proposals, but I think it was the right approach."
Groups that address food insecurity, health care, housing and more benefitted. Nonprofits like the Central Illinois Foodbank, Contact Ministries and others in Sangamon and surrounding counties received help. "There was particular focus on communities of color that were disproportionately affected," Stremsterfer said.
He said the awarding of grants is complete for now, although a portion of money was retained in the event the fund needs to be tapped again due to a resurgence of COVID-19.
The Arts For Illinois Relief Fund provided matching state funds that helped $60-thousand go to local organizations like the Hoogland Center for the Arts, Illinois Symphony Orchestra, Springfield Art Association, Springfield Ballet Company, Pharmacy Gallery and more. Arts and cultural institutions have been hit hard by the pandemic, which has forced cancellations of most events.
The Community Foundation is continuing its Community Grants Program, which encouraging nonprofits to apply for funding by September 7. This year, the request threshold is double the previous level, up to five thousand dollars.
Stremsterfer said for those who have considered philanthropy through a donor advised fund, the timing is right. "People with an intent to be generous really have been able to step up very quickly because they already had the fund in place. Hopefully, they can see the value we're able to provide them by orchestrating requests like this."