Extraordinary Generosity Builds Resilience – An Update from Mauri

Extraordinary. That word – with all its positive and negative connotations – keeps popping up in conversation. In the positive column, thanks to people like you making generous gifts to the Resilience Fund, more than $550,000 is now in the hands of more than 20 nonprofit partners working hard and working creatively to address the many and varied impacts of the pandemic. And, thanks to many Community Foundation Donor Advised Fundholders and several other funds, the Community Foundation’s total COVID response grantmaking now totals more than $720,000. Your gifts are making it possible for nonprofits to rapidly adapt and often increase their service capacity at a time when the last thing they should be worrying about is how to finance their vital efforts. Thank you!

All these big wonderful numbers are really about two core ideas: philanthropy and trust. You’ve heard it from us before, philanthropy means loving one another simply because we’re all humans. You practice it every time you make a gift or volunteer. The contributions to the Resilience Fund – from $10 to $200,000 – are powerful expressions of that pervasive love of neighbors all across the communities of Whatcom County. As for trust, even as we understood very little about what COVID-19 would wreak on local residents and the local economy or how the funds would be deployed, gifts came into the Resilience Fund. That says a lot about what we’re capable of when it matters most. We’ve done our best to carry that trust through as we get your gifts working through highly capable organizations that care about this community as much as you and I do.

Never Let a Crisis Go to Waste
While we are technically in the intermediate response phase, the choices we make now will affect our options later. We must think about and act based on both short and longer-range considerations.

What are we learning?
·       While the pandemic involves numerous challenges, only a handful are new. Two stand-out: 1) nonprofits are having to adapt their service delivery to accommodate physical distancing protocols in real time, and 2) the immense need for small business support to minimize job loss and permanent closures.

·       The rest of the challenges we’re facing – uneven access to opportunities of all types, housing and childcare crises, hunger, domestic violence and others – are all too familiar.

·       If we make the most of this horrific situation, and approach all these challenges – old and new – with urgency as well as thoughtful, fresh perspectives and a commitment to challenging long-held conventions, it may lead to breakthroughs that help us resolve one or more of them. It is possible. 

(A Virtual) Room to Connect
Being an executive director (ED) can be isolating even in good times. Right now, nonprofit leaders are managing much more during this crisis than business as usual. In addition to the service delivery challenges noted above, they are dealing with funding shortfalls and supporting staff and volunteers who have their own personal challenges related to the pandemic.

The Community Foundation is supporting two weekly virtual roundtables for more than 30 EDs to give them a place to get ideas, perspectives and support from their peers as well as a talented professional coach. Special thanks to Laura Todd for her skill and generosity in donating her time to support these local leaders.  Katherine Freimund, the Executive Director at Whatcom Literacy Council shared her gratitude for this opportunity, “Kudos to the WCF for stepping up and providing this much needed forum for sharing.  Even if you are running a tight ship it is stressful to see organizations around us struggling, and so many of our clients now have so many more challenges it is daunting. I have found it very helpful to hear what other nonprofits are up to.”

Policy Matters
Crisis response immediately calls to mind the urgency of meeting basic needs. Policy is equally important and often overlooked. As part of our COVID-response work on food security and other issues, we are helping to elevate policy improvements and opportunities that will improve our community’s ability to meet basic needs during the crisis and potentially beyond. For example, the Bellingham Public Schools (BPS) team brought to our attention several aspects of the USDA’s modified Summer Feed Program Guidelines under which school districts nationwide are currently operating. Those modifications included some beneficial waivers and some detrimental elements as well. BPS was working to get as many meals to food-insecure kids in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible. Unfortunately, there were hurdles in the way: requiring that all children ages 0-18 be present in order to receive food (putting more children at risk of catching or spreading the virus), reducing the number of reimbursable meals from 14 per child per week to ten, as well as others. We brought those issues to the attention of local elected officials. Happily, they have since been resolved by the USDA. The next step is for the waivers (currently set to expire at the end of June) to be extended until the many extraordinary COVID-response measures in place can be safely lifted.

The Happiness Trifecta
There are questions about donor fatigue in the media. There are certainly numerous types of fatigue (and much worse, such as helplessness) at play during the pandemic. I have three words to address the concept of donor fatigue: dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin. They are known as the Happiness Trifecta. The act of giving increases the production of all three. Moreover, their benefits extend beyond lifting your mood. Depending on which you choose, they are connected to sleep, memory, learning, motivation, blood pressure and more. What an incredible opportunity to transform feelings of helplessness into so many good feelings and other health benefits.

Partnerships
Next week we’ll spotlight the wonderful corporate donors and private foundations that have joined you in investing in the local response effort during this critical time. We’ll also share more about our local and statewide partnerships. In the meantime, if you haven’t visited the Whatcom Center for Philanthropy website to learn more about what the partners are doing together, please do.

Town Hall
On Thursday, May 14th (10:00-11:00am), we’ll be hosting a virtual town hall to share more about what we’re learning and doing during this crisis. I hope you will join us. Please email us if you would like to attend and we will send you a link.  Please let us know if there are any topics you would like to hear more about as well.