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Delaware nonprofits, philanthropic organizations launch coronavirus-response funds

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The Delaware Alliance for Nonprofit Advancement (DANA), Delaware Community Foundation (DCF), Philanthropy Delaware, and United Way of Delaware (UWDE) have launched a coordinated community initiative to provide both a rapid response and a long-term strategy to address Delaware’s COVID-19 pandemic.

The challenge is that the pandemic has had a ripple effect through the entire nonprofit community. Organizations are having to reorganize and even spend unbudgeted dollars to contend with employees now working from home. They’ve also seen increased demand for services that require upfront payment before they receive reimbursement and had to cancel their largest fundraisers, costing them the upfront expenses they incurred and the revenue that would have paid for their services, said DANA President and CEO Sheila Bravo, whose organization is surveying local nonprofits to assess needs.

“These four organizations have met regularly over the past few years to collaborate on various initiatives and saw an opportunity to help ensure people get the funding they need,” Bravo said. “Our goal is to help bridge the gap – and understand the needs so the funding community can quickly respond. There’s a lot of uncertainty about how long this will last, and we need to provide the nonprofit community with a support structure so they can hold onto their people.”

Details for the fund came together in less than 48 hours this week, following a conference call March 16 between more than 100 nonprofits, government officials, companies, and foundations, UWDE President and CEO Michelle Taylor said.

“I think we’re sending a very clear message to the state that we’re in this together,” DCF President and CEO Stuart Comstock-Gay added. “All of us are stepping up and it made sense to do it as one initiative. This is a chance to revive civic responsibility and we need to seize that opportunity. We’re going to be in a sprint for the next 60 to 90 days and then address ongoing challenges that nonprofits will have after that.”

Several Delaware foundations and corporations have already committed to contribute major gifts to the collective COVID-19 initiative.

“We want to be able to assess the needs accurately so we can invest accordingly,” Philanthropy Delaware President and CEO Cynthia Pritchard said. “The larger nonprofits have networks they can reach out to, but we really want too see where the money is needed most and invest there to help people’s trajectories. We want to support the organizations that need help serving people but also help to stabilize those that may have had to cancel their largest fundraiser or are being asked to provide additional services. We could be under the current environment for the next eight weeks and then in recovery mode for eight months after that.”

UWDE’s Taylor said her organization, like others, has received an influx of questions from volunteers on issues like supporting senior centers and delivering meals while practicing social distancing, as well as addressing the challenges around the closing of restaurants throughout the state that often support those efforts.

Taylor described the initiative as a “two-pronged strategy: taking care of the needs of the community and taking care of the needs of the organization.”


The United Way of Delaware is working with Philanthropy Delaware on the Delaware Does More: COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund to raise and manage funds that will address immediate needs resulting from the crisis. The fund will focus on alleviating the near-term impact of COVID-19 by working to supplement and support efforts related to children in low-income households, the working poor and seniors. UWDE will work with Philanthropy Delaware and will house and manage this fund.

In addition, United Way will coordinate COVID-19-related volunteer activities throughout the state using its 211 communications platform.

Taylor said the organization has not yet set a funding goal, but it has received seed funding from Delmarva Power, Highmark, and the United Way itself, and “numerous others have reached out to us.”


DCF and Philanthropy Delaware are working with philanthropists to assemble funds for a collective response, targeting evolving long-term needs of the state’s most-impacted communities. The DCF will house and manage this fund, coordinating with the activities of Delaware Does More.

“We’re building the fund, and still figuring out what the actual grant-making process will look like,” DCF Vice President for Marketing and Communications Allison Taylor Levine said.

Meanwhile, Philanthropy Delaware’s Pritchard said her members, who represent some of the state’s largest companies and foundations, are supportive of the approach and have provided some verbal commitments, “but no money has changed hands yet.”

DCF’s Comstock-Gay said that Discover Bank, which has a particular focus on computers for nonprofits, has made a grant to NERDiT Now, which will be distributing computers through its network to local organizations.

As noted, DANA is assessing what nonprofit organizations need to respond successfully to community needs as the long-term impact of the pandemic evolves. Armed with the information from DANA’s assessment, DCF, Philanthropy Delaware, and UWDE will work together to allocate the charitable dollars to have the greatest impact throughout the state.

Businesses, organizations and individuals are invited to donate to this collective response. Donations can be made to:

  • Delaware Does More: COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund at United Way at org
  • Delaware COVID-19 Strategic Response Fund at the DCF at org/coronavirus

The application process for nonprofits will be announced soon. Nonprofits are asked to refrain from contacting the participating organizations at this time.

–Peter Osborne

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