Nonprofit Edition: CFWNC
Many of us recognize the names of WNC’s nonprofits directly addressing our region’s food needs, but behind these orgs is a system of donors and community foundations like the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina (CFWNC) that make their operations possible. CFWNC has shifted to allocate additional grants and funds to nonprofits addressing these increased needs during COVID-19:
Q: Tell us a bit about how CFWNC adapted to COVID in the early days of the pandemic, and how those adaptations have evolved in the past two to three months.
CFWNC: It is a key role of community foundations to respond to emergencies and bring communities together in times of crisis. As the scope of the pandemic became apparent in March, CFWNC activated its Emergency Disaster Response Fund (EDRF) and invited other funders to join. Dogwood Health Trust and WNC Bridge Foundation quickly came on board; other funding partners (complete list at www.cfwnc.org), CFWNC fundholders, and generous individuals raised more than $1.3 million for grants to human service organizations.
Grants addressed basic needs exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and were intended to provide quick and flexible resources to nonprofits with relationships and experience in addressing basic needs and filling public health gaps. Nonprofits applied through an expedited process with grants awarded weekly over a nine-week period. In addition to these collaborative funds, increased funds flowed directly to nonprofits from CFWNC donor advised funds, a group of generous people who consistently support the nonprofit sector.
Q: Food security is always a crucial initiative, but even more so in this era. How has CFWNC reacted to the needs of our community in terms of access to food?
CFWNC: Grants through CFWNC’s Food and Farming and People in Need focus areas have been addressing food insecurity and supporting the local food system since 2011. We knew hunger was an issue in WNC prior to this crisis, but the exponential increase in need for emergency food has strained all points in the supply chain. More than half of the EDRF grants awarded have been to nonprofits feeding people and families. There have been new and innovative approaches to food distribution employed, but we have far to go and need permanent change.
The past weeks have highlighted the need for significant policy reform at both the state and federal levels. One positive outcome of this terrible health crisis is quick and agile partnership amongst funders and nonprofit partners. From collaborative planning to supporting nonprofits with group advocacy and lobbying around food issues, the crisis brought those in the local food system closer and added new partners.
Nonprofits like Bounty & Soul have benefitted from CFWNC’s rapid pivots to respond to needs posed by COVID-19.
Photos courtesy Bounty & Soul
Q: What has been the impact of those reactions?
CFWNC: The fact that regional funders worked together while pushing forward with individual efforts to support the region during this pandemic is new. As we look to the future in light of COVID and the demands for social justice across our communities, CFWNC believes that the alliances built over the last few months hold great promise for the region. We want to continue to be a good partner and an effective funder and to push for a region that ensures basic needs are met and creates opportunity for all.
Q: Do you anticipate these adaptations will be incorporated into programming moving forward?
CFWNC: The collaborative response to support human service nonprofits was intended to fill gaps while organizations waited for state and federal funds to flow. As WNC reopens and we look to recovery, CFWNC announced a final round of grants totaling $172,000. With these awards, CFWNC expends EDRF funds, ceases fundraising for EDRF, and pivots to a new fiscal year that begins July 1. CFWNC will resume the Janirve Sudden and Urgent Needs grant program and will continue to address the pandemic through its four focus areas.