COVID-19 poses striking challenges for the world and for the Pittsburgh region. The virus has revealed vulnerabilities within our communities and among our grant partners. Over the past few months, The Benter Foundation has been listening, connecting and learning as circumstances unfolded. Everything, including the curve of the virus, tells us this a not a sprint but a marathon of rising and changing needs.
On April 2, The Benter Foundation adopted a COVID-19 funding strategy based on the guiding principles of increasing responsiveness, streamlining practices, and increasing, timing well and offering more flexible capital. All of this was intended to build on, and fortify partner strengths.
To increase partners’ flexibility, the Foundation prioritized general operating funding and halted new capital or event specific grants. In the arts, a COVID-19 supplement of more than $250,000 will increase continuing annual grants to cultural partners. The Foundation loosened administrative requirements to approve small grants quickly and streamline funding so that grant partners could focus on more mission critical efforts. COVID-19 grants have supported emergency assistance, while also addressing intermediate and longer term challenges tied to the pandemic. So far $1.5 million in additional support has been allocated for COVID-19 related needs in 2020.
Since adversity often sparks creative adaptation, we’ve welcomed opportunities to work with other funders and new allies.
The Foundation’s portfolio now includes more support for basic human services like food bank assistance, technology to extend free, in-home food delivery for homebound neighbors and a socially distanced farmers market bringing fresh produce to Homewood. A continuing commitment to children’s savings accounts encouraged funding for a pilot program that marries small, no interest loans with building emergency savings for families without access to traditional safety nets. The Foundation is proud to be among the organizers of the Arts|Equity|Reimagined collaborative, and has committed to both its technical assistance and pooled grant fund.
Several of these efforts are featured here in Spotlight essay written by the people who make the best things happen in our community. Other partners will appear in these COVID-19 and regular Spotlights over time.
Overall, the goal of this COVID-19 strategy is to help community allies weather this storm in the short run, and hopefully, to help them emerge from it better equipped for a different, if still uncertain, future.
The Benter Foundation