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Southern California Weekly Funders’ Discussion on COVID 19 - April 2: Resources and Notes

Publication date: 
Thursday, April 2, 2020

The purpose of the Weekly Calls is to create a platform through which funders in Southern California can share how they are responding to COVID-19, collectively identify unmet needs, help funders connect and align with one another, and discover how SCG can support your work. 


  • Regina Birdsell - Executive Director, Center for Nonprofit Management
  • Vanessa Bechtel - President & CEO, Ventura County Community Foundation
  • Kaci Patterson - Owner and Principal, Social Good Solutions




Center for Nonprofit Management (CNM)

Regina Birdsell, Executive Director

  • A Fragile Sector: CNM is hosting weekly calls with nonprofit leaders regarding their rapidly changing needs and challenges. The majority of these leaders are reporting trouble adapting to a world that is changing so quickly. COVID-19 is devastating an already fragile sector. CNM has identified two main phases of nonprofit challenges since the outbreak: 
    • Phase 1 (March 17-24): During this time, nonprofit leaders were communicating challenges around getting services for their employees who would be out of a job (i.e. unemployment, Cal Fresh, medical, more).
    • Phase 2 (March 25-Present): During this time, nonprofit leaders were communicating about scenario planning to identify options for operating with reduced revenue, such as thinking through furloughs and layoffs, canceling revenue-generating events (i.e. GALAs), and communicating their needs and losses to stakeholders.
  • How Funders Can Help: Nonprofits are highly appreciative of the funders who have responded quickly and with compassion to this crisis by relaxing grant reporting requirements, advancing payments, and providing emergency operation grants. In the coming days, nonprofits will need guidance navigating the federal stimulus package designed to relieve financial strain,   
  • Cybersecurity: Now that everyone is working remotely and (likely) on unsecured networks, confidential information is all over the internet. Nonprofits are struggling to secure their private data. 
  • What CNM is Doing: Every Friday, CNM hosts a “Lunch N’ Learns” to relay key headlines to their staff regarding top headlines, vetted resources, emerging questions, new messaging, and potential scenarios. 
  • An Uncertain Future: CNM predicts that COVID-19 will have a devastating impact on the nonprofit sector, potentially causing one-third of them to shut down. Nonprofits that work in the most fragile neighborhoods are likely to be the most impacted. CNM recommends that people “speak truth to power” and acknowledge that government reimbursements are too slow and insufficient, that individual giving has been going down for the last 15 years and can't be relied on to save nonprofits in the face of the downturn that's hitting rich and poor alike, and that leaders raising money to fill gaps in funding is not nearly enough as the problems get bigger. CNM advises everyone to be kind, fast, generous, and to step up if they want nonprofits to survive. 


Ventura County Community Foundation (VCCF)

Vanessa Bechtel, President & CEO

  • Challenges in Ventura County: VCCF reports that their 211 number has had a 700% increase in calls since the outbreak started. A quarter of their food bank locations have also closed, limiting their services to the 77,000 people they typically serve. Because both Santa Barbara and Ventura County have recently experienced climate-related disasters, they are finding that people aren’t entering this crisis with the security or reserves necessary to combat it. They are working on helping beef up their supply chain without draining their reserves.  
  • Response in Ventura County: VCCF has activated a rapid response fund to support nonprofits with unrestricted operating grants. They’ve also opened their 805 Undocufund which provides disaster relief for immigrant families in the region. The Undocufund received 1700 applications within the first 24 hours of opening. They are working with “Give an Hour” which provides free trauma-informed mental health services in English and Spanish. They are also providing economic development support to help grantees access the federal stimulus. 
  • Philanthropy’s Role: Philanthropy has the ability to address the immediate and long-term needs of impacted communities. While the timelines around COVID-19 are uncertain, funders need to prepare for the long-term effects. When people’s lives are disrupted to this caliber, the bounce back takes some time. 


Social Good Solutions (SGS)

Kaci Patterson, Owner and Principal 

  • Centering Racial Equity: SGS states that in this moment equity is being put to the test and that being colorblind or race-neutral will only exacerbate existing inequalities. SGS works with many black-led organizations that operate within black communities which are likely to be disproportionately affected by the outbreak. They shared this statistic “ In Los Angeles County, 39% of nonprofits that disbanded between 2002-2011 served populations where 40% of the residents were black.” For this reason, impacted, black-led organizations cannot fail. 
  • Becoming More Than Their Missions: In the midst of this crisis, the organizations SGS works with are now extending far beyond their standard services and are engaging in supports that resemble humanitarian aid. These organizations are viewed as extensions of the local community and people have begun showing up to their doors looking for help. Overnight they’ve had to change their missions and are now providing support like gas money for families, transportation assistance for older people who need to work but are avoiding buses, emergency assistance housing for families who have been evicted, food bank duties, and more.  
  • How Funders Can Help: Organizations are appreciative of funders who have been flexible with their grant requirements, who have increased their budgets, and who have converted funds into general operating supports. Kaci shared that one funder secured board approval to double the size of their grants with no additional proposal or reporting required. Their reason: “we can’t look back at this year and wish we had done more.” Funders can continue to support by providing cash flow for organizations to meet the increased need for their core services, helping to right-size expectations around Small Business Loan Programs (i.e. who will get them, how to apply), and beginning to prepare for the investments in a post-COVID world. 
  • Long-Term Predictions: 
    • Greater Emphasis on Technology: This includes cloud-based data, cyber-security, and general digital infrastructure. 
    • Remote Work: The sudden pivot to remote, virtual work has made organizations rethink their services beyond in-person delivery. There’s a possibility we’ll see semi-permanence in virtual programming and remote work. 
    • Investing in Infrastructure: The outbreak has made it clear that there’s a real need for organizations to get their internal infrastructure in order. This will include new policies and procedures, disaster preparedness, leadership and succession planning, and more.If organizations survive this crisis, they will work to ensure they can survive the next one. 
    • Opportunity for a Generational Reset: With Congress’ seemingly overnight $2 trillion stimulus package, SGS predicts that organizations will engage in more aggressive advocacy for long-term structural change around issues like income inequality, universal healthcare, and criminal justice reform.



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