Updated on February 5, 2021
In a matter of weeks, COVID-19 traveled from China to rural communities in southeastern Illinois. Life has not been the same since, especially for the most vulnerable community members. As the demand for essential human services like food, shelter, and direct financial assistance quickly increased, Southeastern Illinois Community Foundation looked for ways to support local organizations through its existing charitable assets, technologies, and partnerships.
Donors establish funds at the Community Foundation to provide annual grants. In this case, $55,000 of those dollars that were unrestricted or donor-advised were able to be quickly re-directed to providing short-term COVID-19 relief support where it was most needed. Lumpkin Family Foundation also partnered with the Community Foundation and committed $178,000 in support. These assets, combined with new donations given in response to the need, provided almost $240,000 in COVID-19 relief funds. More than $194,500 of those funds have already been re-granted to organizations serving our most vulnerable populations, including seniors, children, and those needing mental health services.
Beyond local assets, the Community Foundation served as a re-grantor for funds from the Illinois COVID-19 Response Fund (ICRF). The ICRF opened in March through a partnership with Governor Pritzker, the Alliance of Illinois Community Foundations (AICF), and the United Way of Illinois. As a member of the AICF board, Amanda Lessley, President/CEO of Southeastern Illinois Community Foundation, was asked to join the ICRF steering committee to represent southern Illinois. Through several rounds of funding, the Community Foundation partnered with local funders (including United Way of Effingham County) to re-grant $660,000 to 81 organizations (including school districts and municipalities) in southeastern Illinois providing food, supplies, shelter and direct financial assistance to local residents.
With spring fundraisers canceled for many local nonprofits and donations declining, the Community Foundation coordinated a Giving Tuesday Now campaign, an online day of giving, for any nonprofit in southeastern Illinois. Participation included free use of the Community Foundation’s online fundraising platform as well as free training for nonprofit staff/volunteers in marketing and online fundraising. Audra Clodfelter, Communication/Scholarship Administrator of Southeastern Illinois Community Foundation, worked with 25 nonprofits to develop branded campaign pages and best practices for engaging supporters online. Lumpkin Family Foundation and the Ralph and June Kidwell Fund provided $35,000 in matching funds, shared among the nonprofits. Matching funds are a vital factor in the success of an online day of giving because donors know their donation will increase if given that day. Through online and offline donations and the matching funds, the participating organizations raised a total of $100,000.
“When we saw increased needs in southeastern Illinois due to COVID-19, our board and staff committed to bold action and doing it all with no fees,” shared Lessley. “Because generous donors had already partnered with the Community Foundation for their local giving and invested in our organization’s capacity to be a philanthropic resource for our region, we were ready and able to help where it was most needed. By the end of 2020, the Community Foundation will have granted almost $1 million in COVID-19 relief funds in addition to our regular grant programs.”