In response to COVID-19, the York County Community Foundation mobilized partners at the United Way and local philanthropic foundations to develop a charitable response to the crisis. On March 27th, we launched the York County COVID-19 Response Fund (link) with a lead gift from the Fund for York County of $100,000. We agreed that pooling gifts into a COVID-19 Response fund would enable us to focus our charitable grants on priority needs and maximize the impact. Within weeks, the fund has grown to almost $1 million through a mix of gifts from foundations, individuals, and corporations.
The York County Community Foundation (YCCF) is doing what we do best – inspire charitable giving, understand the most critical community needs and target grantmaking towards the highest and best use. This is the work that YCCF does every day and we are embracing the York County spirit of taking action in a crisis.
The COVID Response Fund uses best practices in grantmaking. First, focus initially on the immediate impact on families . . . food security and housing stability. Second, don’t make decisions in a vacuum. Instead, seek advice from those with expertise on the issues representing a broad cross section of the County and ask them what is most needed. Third, stay on top of the evolving availability of public funding to ensure that COVID Fund grants fill gaps and don’t duplicate. Then, simplify the grant process to get grants quickly to nonprofits so they can focus on carrying out their missions.
In the first round of initial grants, the York County COVID-19 Response Fund awarded $186,000 to eight organizations that are providing free food to those experiencing hardship due to COVID-19. Collectively, these organizations are serving thousands of people and reaching even the most rural parts of the County.
For more information about the fund, please visit www.yccf.org which will be regularly updated.
Community progress requires coordinated actions among trusted partners working collectively towards common goals and lasting change. YCCF puts this approach into practice every day and sees its value now more than ever. In addition to convening funders and service providers to work collectively to deploy grant dollars, the York County Community Foundation joined with community foundations and other nonprofit sector leaders to sign two letters to all 18 members of the Pennsylvania delegation and Pennsylvania Congressional Delegation. The letters asked our legislators to include nonprofit organizations in COVID-19 relief bills and to expand charitable deductions to encourage giving.
Supporting Nonprofit Partners
Nonprofits of every size are challenged by the business closures and stay at home orders because fundraising has shrunk, programming has halted and state funding is in jeopardy. Meanwhile, the people served by nonprofits may need them more than ever. Understanding the need for cash support, YCCF distributed annual grants totaling approximately $2 million to nonprofit endowment partners and beneficiaries of designated funds in April, months earlier than scheduled. This economic downturn demonstrates the power of endowment that provides a stable source of annual revenue so our nonprofit sector can deliver essential services.
Knowing that programming may be changing, we are having conversations with grantees to discuss flexibility with grant budgets and timelines.
Scholarship organizations in every school district are struggling to process scholarship applications while schools are not open. YCCF works with 13 districts across the county to award over $600,000 endowed scholarships each year. To allow more time for students to apply for scholarships, we have extended application deadlines and will still get checks to colleges in time for the fall semester.
Working Through Change
York County Community Foundation has rapidly adapted to changing circumstances. While our physical office is closed, the Foundation remains open for business. All calls and emails are answered, gifts acknowledged, grants awarded, Zoom meetings have replaced committee meetings and the staff is regularly communicating with our fundholders to see how they are doing and share information.