Providing Relief During COVID-19

In REPORT Newsletter

This story was originally published in our Fall 2020 REPORT Newsletter.

In the past few months, public health data has supplied us with answers to several questions surrounding coronavirus, while many remain. We have learned how critical it is for health systems to be fully stocked with proper equipment and testing supplies, which businesses and industries have been most negatively affected by the pandemic, and how the people of Michigan are faring during these tumultuous times.

The Community Foundation continues to learn where and how it can be most helpful and make the greatest impact. We also continue to rely on data as it becomes available to determine where needs are most critical in key focus areas.

Supporting Communities of Color

Across every sector, one data trend has become unequivocally clear: communities of color are disproportionately affected by the coronavirus — especially African-Americans.

Living conditions, work circumstances, underlying health conditions, and less access to health care are all key issues that have been identified as factors contributing to racial disparities in COVID-19 infection and death rates. Consequently, nonprofits that primarily serve communities of color and those led by people of color have been severely affected by the pandemic.

African-Americans comprise 15 percent of Michigan’s population but represent 35 percent of people diagnosed with coronavirus. African-Americans in Michigan are 133 percent more likely to contract COVID-19 relative to their percentage of the state’s residents, and account for 40 percent of all deaths statewide. In Detroit, where the population hovers around 80 percent African-American, the effects of the virus are strongly felt.

The Community Foundation, through its COVID relief funds, has distributed more than $10 million in grants to date to support COVID testing, community-based clinics, hospital workers, and more throughout the region. Through that support, the Community Foundation has been working closely with organizations in the seven-county region of southeast Michigan.

Examples of recent grantee activities to combat COVID-19 among communities of color include:

New Detroit
The Community Foundation distributed a grant to New Detroit to support ongoing racial understanding and racial equity work. For more than 50 years, the organization has been working to advance equity and inclusion in Detroit, and during the pandemic, New Detroit is also tackling racial violence through a public health lens.

Michigan Primary Care Association
Based in Lansing, MPCA advocates for health policies that benefit Michigan residents. A recent grant from the Community Foundation supported the initiation and expansion of COVID-19 testing and care to 12 MPCA regional health centers in Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, St. Clair, Washtenaw, and Wayne counties.

Detroit Public Schools Foundation
As schools across the country work to develop
safe and viable back-to-school plans, unforeseen needs continue to arise. In June, the Community Foundation deployed a grant to Detroit Public Schools’ Connected Futures program. This is an effort to get all Detroit public schoolchildren computers and internet connection for digital learning due to COVID-19.

Detroit Wayne Integrated Health Network
Due to quarantine and the pandemic, many young people and families are struggling with isolation, grief, fear, anxiety, depression, substance use, trauma, job losses, and uncertainty about the future. The Detroit Wayne Integrated Health Network (DWIHN) has focused on expanding support to individuals impacted by the virus who are often overlooked or underrepresented. Funding from the Community Foundation is supporting the COVID-19 Virtual Therapy Program, Reach Us Detroit, providing free behavioral health support and counseling to those who do not have access to care.

Supporting the Arts and Culture Community

The Community Foundation has also prioritized working with the arts and culture community to help organizations adapt their business models and reach audiences, especially among communities of color.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau Small Business Pulse Survey, the arts and recreation sector reported the second highest negative impact due to COVID by industry. Nationally, financial losses to nonprofit arts organizations are estimated to be about $5 billion to date.

These organizations have also lost hundreds of millions of admitted patrons due to canceled events, resulting in a $6.7 billion loss in event-related spending by audiences. Additionally, two thirds of
the nation’s artists are now unemployed as sector jobs quickly shrunk by 54.5 percent.

In recognition of the needs of the arts and culture community, and in partnership with CultureSource, a regional association that serves more than 150 organizations, the Community Foundation launched the COVID-19 Arts and Creative Community Assistance Fund. Key to this partnership is the active participation of the foundations and other donors with CultureSource’s leadership. To date, nearly $1 million has been raised to provide relief and resiliency for arts and culture organizations.

As the first action of the fund, the Community Foundation provided $110,000 to CultureSource to retain cross-disciplinary consultant group WolfBrown. WolfBrown is a national cultural consulting firm specializing in work with nonprofit organizations and government agencies in the areas of arts/culture, education, and social service. Through WolfBrown’s research, which involved a needs assessment of
46 local organizations, the COVID-19 Arts and Creative Community Assistance Fund and its partners are learning where needs are most critical during the crisis.

CultureSource also led the fund’s first round of grants that provided immediate relief to local arts organizations. With the recommendations of the fund partners, 50 grants were awarded in May. Arts and culture organizations receiving funding ranged in budget size from $10,000 to $35 million.

Recipients include smaller groups such as Ypsilanti’s Youth Arts Alliance and the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum, which has begun offering virtual programming and workshops for youth. Others are larger institutions such as the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, which launched a series of free, outdoor, socially distant performances in August. A full list of all 50 grantees can be seen here.

In addition to supporting individual organizations representing distinct industries during COVID-19, the Community Foundation is committed to the vibrancy of our region’s nonprofits.

To bolster capacity and unlock practical solutions that immediately help organizations during this uncertain time, in late July, a grant of $150,000 was made to the Michigan Nonprofit Association, in partnership with Michigan Community Resources, Nonprofit Enterprise at Work, Community Development Advocates of Detroit, and Co.Act Detroit to support the needs of nonprofit organizations during the pandemic.

Funds from the grant are intended to help a collaboration of these organizations, which serve as hubs and intermediaries for nonprofits in their region.

Nonprofits operate on a model that can feel financially fragile during times of crisis. Organizations working to increase the sector’s resilience are developing systems of support to ensure that, even in spite of the financial challenges of COVID-19, the sector remains vital.

Together, they have organized services and resources and connected with local leaders and nonprofits to help inform funding decisions and giving strategies. The collaborative is currently meeting every week to keep pace with evolving needs and to strategize around a continued response.

While organizations across sectors adapt to the impact of the pandemic, the Community Foundation continues to rely on community members, nonprofits, and other voices to learn where needs are most vital. The Community Foundation’s ability to respond quickly to the needs of southeast Michigan residents stems from its strong partnerships and guidance from trusted partners.

See how you can help in our COVID-19 responses