Our commitment to grantee partners during the COVID-19 pandemic
Dear Polk Bros. Foundation grantee partners,
Frequently, in the course of our work together, we find ourselves reflecting with deep gratitude on the ingenuity, dedication and strength you bring to your work. These recent days, as you scramble to bring your programs to people in vastly different ways, as you face down financial challenges brought on by canceled events and programs, and as you put yourselves on the front lines to help our city’s most vulnerable residents, our ongoing gratitude has reached a new level of awe and admiration.
Our top goal at Polk Bros. Foundation is simple: we want to help you do your work and we don’t want to get in your way.
Last week, Polk Bros. Foundation joined over thirty other local funders to reaffirm our commitment to Chicago area nonprofits. Today we want to take a moment to share, in greater detail, the Foundation’s specific commitments to you and our other grantee partners in this extraordinary moment.
Listening, Learning and Sharing
Like you, we are keenly focused on helping to address COVID-19’s immediate impact on Chicagoans’ health and other basic needs, and to alleviate the virus’ longer-term impacts on those who are also deeply affected by poverty and inequity. Over the past week, we have been collaborating closely with grantee partners, with other funders and with the City to collectively learn and share information about emerging and high-priority needs, and to most effectively align resources toward meeting those needs.
Increasing Flexibility to Help our Grantees Endure
The communities you serve need your undivided attention. We are taking actions to help ensure our grantee partners can manage the immense challenges coming your way, so you can continue to provide the services that have always been so critical to our city’s well-being.
It is clear that organizations and communities need flexible financial resources right now. This week, during an emergency meeting, our Board of Directors approved the conversion of most current grants awarded in the past 12 months to general operating support. If your organization’s grant is eligible to be converted to general operating support, we will reach out directly within the next week to confirm the details with you.
Additionally, for the remainder of the Foundation’s current fiscal year, through August 31, 2020, most grants will be awarded as general operating grants. The exceptions will include discrete programs housed within our very largest grantees, such as universities and the like, or local branches of national organizations, though we will also be reviewing these individually to see what flexibility we can offer.
Streamlining our Processes
We understand that your priorities may be shifting as you determine how best to provide for communities, and the path to meet your original program goals may no longer be clear. We also realize that during this crisis it may not be realistic to meet the project goals you once expected to achieve. Please know, we understand and will prioritize flexibility regarding reporting.
To help alleviate pressure on nonprofit teams who are stretched thin in the face of so much need, we are simplifying our application and reporting processes for at least our next two rounds of grantmaking. Proposals for our May 2020 Board meeting were already submitted prior to the full onset of this crisis. If your organization is being considered for a grant at our August 2020 Board meeting, please watch your inboxes for more streamlined instructions early next week. For all others, please check the Our Process page of our website for updates, and know we will reach out to organizations with updated instructions well in advance of any reporting deadlines.
Contributing to the Chicago Community COVID-19 Response Fund
To help ensure individuals and households most impacted by the pandemic can immediately access the essential aid they need — such as emergency food, basic supplies, and assistance with rent, mortgage, and utilities — we are joining dozens of funders and thousands of individuals by contributing significantly to the Chicago Community COVID-19 Response Fund, which has been developed in close coordination with the City of Chicago’s Mayor’s Office. This is one way to get financial resources out to communities and direct service providers as quickly as possible. Indeed, more than $3.5 million has already been distributed to 42 local nonprofit organizations, most of which are Polk Bros. Foundation grantees.
Continuing the Foundation’s Grantmaking without Disruption
Foundation staff are working remotely — taking phone calls and responding to emails — as we listen to and collaborate with our partners, review funding proposals, prepare for upcoming Board meetings, and distribute grant payments. Program officers will be in touch, as needed, to schedule conversations or to conduct site visits remotely. We do not anticipate our regular program budgets will be affected by the grants we’re making now in response to COVID-19.
Now and always, we are grateful for your expertise, your hard work and your conviction to make our city stronger.
Yours in partnership,
Gillian Darlow, CEO
Evette Cardona, Vice President of Programs