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By Mike Nellis, CEO

It’s been nearly 60 days since we closed our office, transitioned to working remotely and began social distancing to keep our selves and loved ones healthy. While many of us have adjusted to a much different lifestyle due to the COVID-19 outbreak, healthcare professionals, first responders, grocery store clerks, nonprofit staff and other essential workers continue to be on the frontlines of this pandemic. We owe them a great deal of gratitude for serving our community with bravery and providing stability during an unsettling and evolving situation.

As we continue to navigate this uncharted territory, I wanted to provide you with an update. Austin Community Foundation is uniquely qualified to support our community during times of need. Over the past 43 years, you’ve trusted us to convene people, pool resources and help tackle the big issues. There has never been a bigger issue in our lifetime than this, and how we respond should be just as significant. Since March through mid-May, ACF has increased its giving by 57% in comparison to the same time last year. Below is an overview of our response thus far.

Emergency relief funds:

  • Stand with Austin – On March 7, one day after the cancellation of SXSW was announced, we created the Stand with Austin Fund in partnership with the Entrepreneurs Foundation to provide relief to those most negatively impacted by the cancellation. Thanks to the generosity of many donors, businesses and foundations, the Stand with Austin Fund distributed nearly $700,000 to 15 nonprofits serving individuals and small businesses in the music and creative, service and bar, and hospitality industries.
  • All Together ATX – On March 27, we joined forces with the United Way for Greater Austin to launch a large-scale philanthropic fund to support communities experiencing economic and health-related hardships caused by COVID-19. We seeded the All Together ATX fund with $250,000 from AFCF’s unrestricted and field of interest funds, and donor advised fundholders at ACF have contributed approximately $2.1 million to the fund. So far, we’ve raised nearly $6 million and distributed $1.8 million in grants to 97 organizations addressing food insecurity, basic needs, medical needs, employment and child care. Fundraising is ongoing and additional funding will be disbursed late this summer and in the fall.

Our programs:

  • Women’s Fund – We quickly realized women would be disproportionally impacted by COVID-19, so we revised the Women’s Fund grants process in order to expedite and increase funding for the 2020 grants cycle. The program grants were converted to unrestricted general operating support and we increased the grantmaking budget to $400,000 (up from $300,000 originally planned). On April 29, the Women’s Fund awarded grants ranging from $50,000 to $5,000 to 16 local nonprofits supporting the economic security of women and children.
  • Hispanic Impact Fund – The COVID-19 outbreak will only further widen the economic opportunity gap that many Hispanic Central Texans experience. With this in mind, we converted our current project grants ($180,000 awarded to six nonprofits last fall) to general operating support and quickly deployed an additional $70,000 in funding to current and past grant partners.
  • Community Grants – Our Community Grants programs connects our donor advised fundholders to support the greatest needs in Central Texas. In response to the current crisis, we converted all active grants to general operating support, allowed pending grant applicants to update their applications with the impact of the pandemic to their organization, and informed our donor advised fundholders of these developments and encouraged them to increase their support.

Our DAF grantmaking:

Donor advised fundholders (DAFs) at Austin Community Foundation have a long history of supporting Central Texas during times of crisis and disaster. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, DAFs have been quick to support local relief efforts and increase grantmaking to nonprofits in Central Texas and beyond. Since March through early May, our DAFs have granted approximately $5.7 million, an 81 percent increase compared to this time last year. Our increase in DAF grantmaking is on par with the response from community foundations around the country. According to a recent survey, donor-advised funds at 64 U.S. community foundations granted $821.9 million to nonprofits in March and April, a 58.2 percent increase compared with the same period one year ago.

The immediate response by ACF fundholders and donors as well as our entire community has been incredible, but the need is great and evolving every day. The true impact of COVID-19 is still unknown, which is why ACF is playing the long game. Our intentions are to not only respond to the urgent needs of our community at this critical moment, but also to ensure our nonprofit sector remains resilient in the months and years ahead.

As we approach the summer and fall, we know things will be different. All of us are trying to figure out what the remainder of 2020 will look like. Amidst the uncertainty, please know that ACF will continue to keep a finger on the pulse of our community by actively connecting with partner organizations and listening to the needs of our fellow Central Texans.

Now is the time to give, and give generously. We encourage you to continue to support local nonprofits by either donating to All Together ATX or by giving to your favorite organization(s). If you’re an ACF fundholder or donor interested in recommendations, please contact us at heretohelp@austincf.org.