Creative Grant Making During a Pandemic

Anyone who reads this doesn’t need to be told that we are all struggling to figure out what normal looks like.  The Community Foundation is no different. We understand that our nonprofit community is being challenged to keep up with the demands placed on them as so many are in need of their services. In March, our staff started having discussions about how we could help. The first thing we did was have conversations with many nonprofits to find out what their needs were. In the earlier months, the immediate was to provide critical resources to meet basic needs, like food and shelter, for so many in our community.

To help, we took a number of actions. First, we notified our 2020 Community Grant Award recipients that they could use their grant monies to address immediate pandemic related challenges within their organizations. Second, in partnership with the Augusta National Golf Club, we contributed $500,000 each to Augusta University Health to ramp up their testing capabilities. Simultaneously, we partnered with the United Way of the CSRA to set up the CSRA COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund. To date, the fund has provided $1,755,150 in grants to 69 local nonprofits within 13 counties in Georgia and South Carolina, helping those who have been impacted by COVID-19. To learn more, click here.

At the same time, our Literacy Initiative partner agencies had to work together and discover  creative solutions that kept the initiative moving forward since so many programs could not meet in person with their children or their parents.

Summer arrived and it was time for our 2021 Community Grants process to begin. We knew we would need to tailor our application and review process with COVID-19 impacts and restrictions in mind. The application was adjusted to include questions about the impact of COVID, along with the removal of questions we felt could not be answered due to so much uncertainty. Also, we adjusted volunteer trainings and non-profit site visits during a time when ‘in-person’ activities were not permitted.

To make this happen we embraced all available technology at hand! We, like the rest of the world, quickly became Zoom experts. Trainings for both our 159 panel volunteers and our 117 nonprofit applicants were conducted virtually and everyone received tips on how to do virtual site visits…and, of course, we asked everyone to give each other grace as we all dealt with bad connections, poor bandwidth, screen shares that didn’t work out as planned, and the fear of learning something new when so much can depend on getting it right.

I am happy to say we are now on the other end of that process and, to my knowledge, no one pulled out all of their hair or ran screaming into the streets! The site visits are complete, the results are in and now it is time to present our panels’ decisions to the CFCSRA Board for approval.

From my perspective, the lessons to be learned from all of this are that we have to be patient with each other; we have to be creative in how we approach grantmaking; we have to be ready to listen so that we know what help is needed; and, finally, we need to be ready to pivot quickly to meet those needs. We all hope 2021 will get us back to something that resembles “normal”, but if takes a while, just know your Community Foundation will be here to help.


Rebecca Wallace Photo

Rebecca Wallace
Director of Grant and Community Engagement