It feels like an eternity ago that COVID-19 first hit our community, even though my calendar indicates it’s only a couple of months. It has dramatically impacted everyone, and personally, it feels like I am in a COVID-19 fog which challenges my ability to see what is ahead. With stay-at-home orders shifting throughout the region, it is still important that we continue to work together to help the community stay safe and to provide support for those most impacted by the coronavirus.
I am proud to report that since March, Truman Heartland Community Foundation donor-advised fundholders have granted more than $240,000 to nonprofits in direct response to the pandemic. And year to date, total grants from these donors are up 23 percent over 2019. We are grateful that these fundholders have responded generously during this crisis.
As we continue to connect with community leaders and nonprofits to learn how we can best support our community during recovery, I am inspired by the nimble and innovative ways organizations are serving the community while maintaining social distancing to keep clients, volunteers and staff safe. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to visit the COVID-19 section on our website at www.thcf.org/COVID-19 to learn more about how nonprofits in Eastern Jackson County are adjusting to meet the rapidly changing needs of the community and how you can help.
This is a time for creativity and action, and your community foundation is responding. In addition to launching the new COVID-19 section on our website and regularly encouraging fundholders to invest in the nonprofit community, we are adjusting our competitive grants cycle to offer flexibility and funding to nonprofits when they need it most – now.
By fast-tracking the grants review process for our 2020 competitive grants program, we will be able to award grant checks in July instead of November. This is truly a community undertaking. This year, Truman Heartland received requests for more than $892,000 in grant support, which is more than three times the amount available to grant. Our dedicated Board and Advisory Board members are busy reading grant proposals and meeting via Zoom to make difficult funding decisions.
While we are dedicated to expediting this funding, it has dramatically changed the process for our youngest Advisory Board members, our Youth Advisory Council. Participating in our annual competitive grants program is an important learning opportunity for these high school students. Under normal circumstances, YAC teams would spend June and July coordinating in-person visits to area nonprofits to learn more about their funding requests for youth-serving programs. However, with the fast-tracked grants cycle, site visits and presentations all moved online. YAC students met with nonprofits via Zoom to gather insights to share with the Foundation’s Grants Committee and recommendations for grants the students will award from their self-funded endowment.
The road to social and economic recovery will be long and winding. As things reopen, many low-wage restaurant and retail employees, who were barely making ends meet before the pandemic, may not have a job to return to. We know that there will be even more need for our Job Skills for New Careers Initiative and are working closely with our collaboration partners to respond to this increased need. You can find out more about this initiative and our partners at www.thcf.org/job-skills.
I am confident this COVID-19 fog will lift someday. And by working together to help the community stay safe and provide support for those most impacted, we will produce the energy and light needed to lift this fog. Stay safe, and let’s all keep working together.
Phil Hanson is the president and CEO of Truman Heartland Community Foundation, a 501(c)(3) public charity committed to improving the communities in and around Eastern Jackson County. For more information, visit www.thcf.org or call 816-836-8189.