Possibility and Hope After a Year Like No Other
It’s already May! Spring is definitely in the air. While there is still much work to be done on just about every front, within that work lies possibility and hope for defining a new and better normal for our community. Here’s a peek at what we know right now, the questions we’re asking, and what’s getting us up in the morning. While we aim for brevity, I hope you’ll agree that in this case we’re way off that target for lots of good reasons.
What we know:
1. Our hearts our full. Thank you, thank you, thank you for all the support you provided to our neighbors and community throughout the last year+ of pandemic crisis and relief efforts. Thanks to you and the matching funds from All In WA, $1.9 million from the Resilience Fund has been put to work in local communities through partners like the Lhaq’temish Foundation and dozens of nonprofits. (In fact, in the last 13 months, we granted more than $7 million. That’s more than double the previous year.)
“During a time when we were mobilizing quickly to serve emergent needs, this quick, strategic, and intentional support to leverage resources made the program possible. We can never thank you enough for your support.”
2. Trust works. If there was ever a time to let go of time-consuming application and reporting requirements, this was it, and we have been buoyed by the results. Whatcom County nonprofits stepped up in huge ways to support and serve our communities fueled by your gifts.
“Thank you for your leadership and support always, but especially during this most difficult year. The philosophy and approach you have taken to grantmaking has created such ease and flexibility for us and others.”
What we’re asking: ourselves, our grantees, our partners:
1.“How can we make as much resource as possible available to the community?”
Our Board voted in January of this year to increase annual spending rates for endowed Funds for one year: 20% for discretionary grantmaking funds and 10% for endowed Donor Advised Funds for this fiscal year.
The Community Foundation is accountable to this community. The job of board and staff leadership is to calibrate the management and application of resources toward a ‘return’ strategy – social and financial – that balances mission, vision, values, and fiscal prudence with community needs, opportunities and circumstances.
For many years, our spending rate has been 4%, which is typical for endowments. But this year is anything but typical. We want to deploy as much philanthropic capital into the vital COVID-response, community building and other important work in which dozens of local organizations are involved. Increasing the payout this year will allow for more resources to flow, helping our neighbors through this incredibly challenging time. All while ensuring the Community Foundation remains fiscal healthy.
2.“What keeps you up at night?”
Responses ranged from fundraising and staffing challenges to lack of housing and mental health support; from vaccine hesitancy to the deepening divisions across our county. And underlying each of these issues is the essential challenge: the persistence of community inequity that will take years to dismantle.
“How to create better, and supportive, connections with the Lummi and Nooksack people. How to better serve non-English-speaking people, especially migrant workers. How to better serve rural parts of Whatcom.”
Our non-profit leaders are wrestling with shifting priorities in a sea of need. Providing them with flexible, unrestricted dollars is one of the best ways to ensure that as pandemic relief efforts continue, our county doesn’t just recover from the crisis but emerge from it as a more equitable and more prosperous community.
3.“How can we leverage federal recovery money (American Rescue Plan Act, ARPA) and other funds to aid those efforts?”
Our community must ultimately make decisions about ARPA based on a changing landscape as direct federal and state expenditures are still being determined and rulemaking for local jurisdictions and other recipients (including nonprofits) is still in process.
We need to be thoughtful about all public and private funding available during this time. Now is the time to build on early recovery efforts. In conversations with government, nonprofit and philanthropy partners, we are working on ways to collaborate to ensure the necessary communication, coordination and planning needed to make the most of these resources.
What we’re excited about:
1.This is not just a time of recovery, it’s a time of reimagination. We have the opportunity to acquire or develop assets, pilot ideas and finance pandemic-related recovery efforts that could have enduring benefits to our community (e.g. mental health.) We want to think big, plan well, do better.
2.The Millworks. I am thrilled to report that the state capital budget includes $1 million for the Millworks project. We cannot wait to show the depth and range of benefits this investment will return to our community — and our state.
3.You. We are heartened by your trust, your generosity and commitment to making Whatcom County better.
One of our nonprofit partners said it best, “The pandemic has brought out the helpers. Mr. Rogers would be so proud. Every day you see or hear how someone, or an organization, or a collective, is stepping up to help. I hope this spirit of contribution continues long after the pandemic fades away.”