BCF COVID-19 Response Update #1
March 17, 2020
By now, we are all aware of the magnitude of the public health crisis that our city, region, and indeed nation and world are facing due to the novel COVID-19 virus. BCF’s leadership made the decision on March 12, 2020 to move to a remote working situation beginning Monday, March 16, 2020. At the close of our first two days of teleworking, we can report that our systems are all functioning as needed, and staff are carrying on with the regular work of the foundation, including processing grants awarded last week in support of our strategic plan’s place-based grant making in selected school communities; processing donor-advised grant making; monitoring the progress of legislation to enact the Kirwan Commission recommendations in the Maryland General Assembly (which the Senate passed late last night); and carrying on with committee work.
That is the regular business of BCF, but of course, these are not regular times, and our particular niche at the intersection of philanthropy and community has us uniquely positioned to be responsive to community needs emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic. BCF has taken the following steps to do so:
- On Friday, March 13, we opened the COVID-19 Evolving Community Needs Fund to enable rapid response to mitigate the effects of the public health emergency our region is currently facing. One hundred percent of all donated funds will go directly to address the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on our region’s communities, workforce, and vulnerable populations. BCF’s executive committee voted immediately to the seed the new fund with $50,000 from our unrestricted grant making funds. Donate Now!
- We are working with the corporate community to assist an effort to set up a donor advised fund, focused on assisting the public sector (city agencies including Baltimore City Public Schools) to address food insecurity resulting from the pandemic.
- BCF staff have been in touch throughout the last week with community partners to identify immediate (next 1-2 weeks), intermediate (next 3-6 weeks), and long-term needs. Our early conversations have surfaced potential areas of need as follows:
- Credible information sources for vulnerable populations, such as persons experiencing homelessness, immigrants and limited-English speaking persons, and seniors.
- Protecting low-income workers from the immediate and long-term economic impacts of the pandemic. This area of response could include advocacy for public policy responses in addition to immediate grant making to support the people-to-people response efforts of community-based organizations.
- Access to food and other essential supplies for children, families, and seniors, especially in Baltimore County given the corporate sector response to food insecurity in the city.
- Connecting entrepreneurs with idled resources (catering kitchens, technology infrastructure, etc.) to communities in need of new solutions and putting idled workers and volunteers to work in new (remote) capacities to solve immediate problems.
- Mental health and wellness resources as we care for ourselves and one another in such uncertain times.
- BCF staff are also in touch with nonprofit organizations to determine and assist with their continuity of operations. We are encouraging all grantees who wish to do so to work with our finance staff to set up electronic transfers of funds, so as to enable continuity of operations in the event agency staff cannot get to their offices to open mail. We are inviting our grantees to share any anticipated concerns about short-term cash flow or similar needs that we might be helpful with.
- We are using our communications channels, especially social media, to amplify messages about where to find immediate help, such as food distribution sites, as well as information about which public services are still operating and which are suspended, for both Baltimore City and Baltimore County.
The disruptions to our routines and the anxiety this pandemic is causing for all of us are real. But so too are the million acts of kindness, entrepreneurship, and ingenuity that will get us through this crisis. In just the last few days, our staff have encountered (virtually, of course!) countless community members—from school leaders to mentors to entrepreneurs to nonprofit leaders to community organizers—coming up with creative and safe ways to meet the needs of strangers in this unprecedented situation. In case you missed it, be sure to check out this Baltimore Sun article on neighbors jumping into action to care for their vulnerable neighbors. To echo Baltimore City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, “thank goodness we’re still Baltimore.”
DONATE to the Evolving Community needs fund NOW