The Community Foundation spent a lot of time during the last year talking to our nonprofit partners and learning about their challenges, innovations, and outright determination in weathering the pandemic. Two frequently recurring words dominated these conversations: technology and fundraising.
Nonprofits have been forced to lean on technology like never before to continue critical service delivery, fundraising, and support of remote workers. And they have had to figure out how to pay the bills after fundraising took a nosedive when in-person fundraising events were canceled.
|Local COVID Relief Grant Recipients
To help provide nonprofits with as much flexibility, certainty, and stability as possible, the Community Foundation:
- Added new options for general operating support.
- Established emergency funds for COVID-related expenses.
- Offered nonprofit adaptation grants for technology and consulting.
- Relaxed restrictions on current grants.
- Introduced more flexible grant application deadlines.
- Reduced reporting burdens.
These changes helped to build grantee capacity to not only survive the COVID crisis but to come out of it better positioned to achieve strategic goals and aspirations.
Jason Presto, CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of the Tri-County Area, sums it up well. “As the Club scrambled to shift its service delivery model and continue to meet the evolving needs of our customers, so did the Community Foundation. Their willingness to shift giving practices and meet organizations, such as ours, where we were, was critical to our continue ability to stay relevant, maintain momentum and increase impact.”
When discussing technology, we heard many nonprofits say, “We don’t know what we don’t know” — leaving them confused, overwhelmed, or paralyzed about where to start. This inspired us to offer free technology assessments and coaching in addition to grants.
“Like so many small non-profit organizations we do not have the benefit of staff that specializes in technology and have gotten by with hand-me-down recommendations and hardware in the past. I can’t say enough about how wonderful it has been to get help from someone with tech knowledge that understands nonprofit needs. It’s been such a relief to know I’m spending the organization’s money in the best/smartest way,” shares Nikki Hessel, Executive Director at Future Neenah.
A total of $1,108,900 in COVID relief has been awarded to date with the majority of support coming from the Oshkosh COVID-19 Relief Fund, the Basic Needs Giving Partnership/U.S. Venture Fund for Basic Needs, and the Community Impact Fund. Of that amount, $716,500 was for general operating support, $211,390 was for technology enhancements, and $181,000 was for specific COVID-related needs.
Grants have supported a wide range of needed improvements including:
- Technology for telehealth appointments, virtual learning, and social connection for isolated individuals
- Virtual fundraising and volunteer management software
- Audio-visual equipment for livestreaming performances and fitness classes
- Migration to cloud-based systems to improve remote employee collaboration and productivity.
While there was plenty of stress associated with making so many changes at lightning speed, the ingenuity and irrepressible spirit that we’ve witnessed during the last year has reinforced our belief that great opportunity can come from crisis.