Building Connections

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How the Community Foundation of Louisville is providing COVID-19 funding relief 

By Liz Bingham
Photos provided by the Community Foundation of Louisville

On March 16, in partnership with Louisville Metro Government and several other community partners, the Community Foundation of Louisville opened the One Louisville: COVID-19 Response Fund and started receiving funds and building a process for how to get money flowing out. To learn more about how and why this fund was developed, who it has helped and how the Community Foundation thinks this pandemic has affected our community as a whole, we spoke with Senior Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer of the Community Foundation of Louisville Trisha Finnegan. 

Why was the One Louisville: COVID-19 Response Fund started?
“The fund was started for one purpose: to support our community, particularly our neighbors who need support and those who are most vulnerable right now.”

How are the funds being raised?
“The money for the fund is raised from various sources. It ranges from a $10 contribution by someone who hears about it and goes onto the Community Foundation’s website to a $1 million gift from a corporation, family or individual. 

We have also had people start their own fundraisers, whether that’s through Facebook or other campaigns. These have included the Louisville Bats, who hosted the concert Live at Home(Plate) on April 24 to encourage donations to the fund. The concert was live on Facebook and featured singer-songwriter Kentucky Harp. The Bats are also helping raise money by selling a special t-shirt in a partnership with two other baseball teams in Lexington and Bowling Green. A portion of each shirt sold through the Louisville Bats website will benefit the One Louisville: COVID-19 Response Fund. 

Louisville City FC and their apparel partner Dyehard Fan Supply have also been supporters of the One Louisville: COVID-19 Response Fund. They sold t-shirts with $10 per shirt being donated to the fund. The shirts were so popular, that Kroger ended up ordering them to sell in their stores, continuing the $10 per shirt donation. Additionally, LouCity players have held their own fundraising initiatives and challenges on social media to encourage more donations.”

How is the support provided?
“The support is focused in two primary areas. One is direct support to households that can apply for funding up to $1,000. The process is currently full and was managed by Louisville Metro Government. The second part is to support nonprofits to support people all across our community. We are focused on those who need support most, such as vulnerable populations and people who need immediate service as well as longer term help. This includes food, utilities, health and all kinds of support for people.” 

Food distribution provided by JCPS.

What is the process of determining who receives the support?
“There is an open application that any nonprofit can apply to. There is a volunteer committee of qualified and experienced grant reviewers who meet and review each application for the populations that they’re serving, the need for that population and then they make recommendations and assess the funding that they have available and then provide that out into the community. We’ve helped more than 120 nonprofits in the Greater Louisville area so far. 

As of May 7, we’ve raised $10.1 million in pledges, and of that, we’ve received $8.3 million. We expect the remaining amount to come in the next few weeks. So far, we have distributed $7.75 million, which is the amount of money we’ve given out through nonprofits and the amount of money we’ve allocated for Louisville Metro Government to distribute to individual households.”

How do you choose which nonprofits will benefit from the fund?
“We put the word out across all kinds of channels to say, ‘Come one, come all, please apply.’ And we’ll help as many as we can. We invited smaller organizations, larger organizations, those working in the West or the East, all across the community.

There is a panel of professionals who have reviewed the more than 300 applications they have received thus far and also consider the reviews of the committee that is made up of people from corporate philanthropy, foundations, the city of Louisville and individual philanthropy. All of us work together to make a decision to say, ‘This is the need.’

Other organizations that have been helpful in determining the recipients have been Metro United Way, Fund for the Arts and the Center for Nonprofit Excellence. We’ve pulled information and data and feedback from a lot of different places and pulled that into one committee so we can try to make the best decisions based on where the need is, what’s being funded and where we know help is still needed.”

Is there a certain category of nonprofit that you’ve noticed has needed more help than others?
“I think it’s spread pretty evenly. We have tried to focus on stability for people right now, so we’ve tried to focus on food, access to programs in remote form for students and all kinds of things that help support families right now — rental support, utility support, medication and telehealth support, mental health support. We have tried to focus the grant making on that, but we are getting applications from all across the community. 

We look at nonprofits by size, by geography. I can say we have some very new nonprofits that we funded and then we have some nonprofits that have been around for 100 years that we’ve funded. I think it’s been a really broad spectrum and we’ve tried to be really intentional about funding small and large, new and existing and to be really thoughtful about spreading the love.”

Are there certain areas or neighborhoods that have been the most in need?
“People who were vulnerable before are even more vulnerable now. While a lot of what we see is geography in Louisville, what we’ve seen with this crisis is many more people need help. The people who were struggling economically before are still struggling, and that often tends to be more geographically focused in West Louisville. But what we know with this crisis is, a number of people who were making ends meet and okay before, are now being pushed over that edge where they’re in need as well. What we’ve seen is, people who were in need before are also in need, but we also have a whole new set of people and families who are in need who were doing okay on their own before. So we’ve seen that we have an overall greater need across our whole community in addition to the needs there prior to COVID-19.”

Americana Fiberworks participant.

Will the fund be extended beyond what it has provided for individual households so far?
“The original goal of this part of the fund was to get people through the gap of when federal funding was going to be provided. We weren’t trying to replace any support people could get through the government, but trying to help people get money sooner. 

We know the fund can’t do everything and the fund can’t last forever, but we were really hoping that the fund could really serve as a gap filler for a number of individuals and households while other things were being stood up.”

Is there a monetary goal the fund hopes to reach?
“We didn’t have a specific goal per se, we just hoped that the community would step forward and that we would create a place where everyone would feel comfortable participating. We know that in times of crisis, many people want to help, but often don’t know how. The hope for the One Louisville Fund is that we could create one place, one home, where people could come to contribute. 

We’ve been blown away, so happy and honored for the support that people have provided and are so proud of this community for stepping forward to the tune of $10 million.”

In your own personal opinion, do you think that the overall goal of the Community Foundation has shifted since COVID-19? Do you expect operations to go back to normal once the pandemic is behind us?
“I think we have to continue to adapt. At the Community Foundation, we change our funding every year to try to look at how we can make the greatest impact. What I can say is, we know that based on the times now, we have to continue to shift again. That is part of what we do at CFL, we do that most years, we try to change what we’re doing to meet the needs of the community. And this certainly is doing that in a much more aggressive form.”

How does the Community Foundation and you as an individual feel about how the pandemic has affected our community and the city of Louisville as a whole?
“What I’m seeing through this is that people are collaborating more. Funders, people who are doing work in this community, I’m seeing more collaboration than ever. And what I really think is important, is that we hold ourselves to an even brighter future after this. I’m just really eager for us not to go back to normal or even develop a new normal and to look at how we can be more than we were before this.

I read a saying years ago, ‘Where there’s crisis, there’s opportunity.’ So in my mind, we’re certainly in a crisis, and I think that all of us together have the opportunity to be different on the other side and that will have made surviving the crisis meaningful. That will make us better by being on the other side.

I think as funders, both at CFL and in the community, my greatest hope is that this increased collaboration that we’re seeing is carried through to the other side as our own self improvement that we’ve learned and become wiser and gained through this process.”

The Child Development Center at St. Joseph Children’s Home continues to provide quality child care under a limited duration license to children whose parents are essential first responders.

If someone wanted to get involved in a more hands on way rather than just donating monetarily, how could they do so?
“Specific to this fund, a donation online is very helpful, anything from $10 on. I also think that for those who might not be in a position to donate financially, that they could do something nice for someone around them or someone that they haven’t helped before. That may mean something simple, like helping a neighbor with a chore, or it may mean providing a meal for someone. I think the fund is a really powerful tool and we would love for people to engage with the fund, but it’s also really powerful to have people consider other ways to help people around them.

For everything there is a season, and the One Louisville Fund was stood up really quickly, with a lot of partnership and a lot of thoughtful contribution, and it’s really important for us that it serves a purpose and that it helps during this challenging period, but we also don’t want to take away from the really good work that our nonprofits are doing longterm by raising their own funds and so forth. 

For me, I consider the most important piece of the One Louisville Fund to be that the community has come together, we are doing it in a collaborative way and seen over 1,000 donations. So just a sense of coming together and that we are here for each other. And how does this one tool, while there are many other tools, do something unique at a time where our community needs it, is really the focus we’ve held through this process. And we know that one tool can’t do everything, but we hoped that this tool would be something that other tools weren’t.”

What is the change you hope to see come from this fund in terms of what it will provide and alleviate, and where do you hope to see us as a community and a city in the future?
“I hope that we continue to work together and to recognize that any individual or household’s success matters and their wellbeing matters to all of us. And if there’s a portion of our community that is suffering or not thriving, that ultimately, it affects all of us. I read something about the greatest form of connection is ultimately the greatest isolation we have ever seen. It shows how really connected we all are. So my personal hope is that we remain really attuned to the connectivity between us because I think it’s really important and I hope that people don’t just go back to the way things were. I hope that we recognize our connections going forward and into the future.” V

To donate to the One Louisville: COVID-19 Response Fund, visit