Last week marked a year since the McGowan Fund closed the office following stay-at-home orders in most of our grant-making regions. I recall telling staff “I’ll see you in April.” Never would I have guessed that one year later, the office and streets of downtown Chicago would still be very quiet, with most people continuing to work from home.
As was the case all over the world, COVID-19 ravaged McGowan communities. Our grantee partners were quickly overwhelmed by the sudden increase in needed support from clients. With the extraordinary circumstances rapidly closing the economy, they saw hunger increase, a rise in volume in domestic violence shelters, and in some cases, teenagers running away from home. Children had to adapt to online education, and in many cases, getting the required technology took significant time to become available. We fear the learning loss in children will be tremendous.
Fortunately, with robust technology in place, the Fund was able to quickly pivot to remote work without missing an operational beat. The board released emergency funding. We continued monitoring the regions and responded accordingly.
Still, some of our nonprofit organizations suffered. Revenue decreased for most, and many found they couldn’t deliver in-person programs. As online galas and other fundraisers have become the norm, most organizations have been able to continue delivering important programs.
In this edition of McGowan News and on our website, you’ll find insights into how a number of grant makers have managed during the pandemic and what they’re thinking now.
As for us here at the McGowan Fund, even though the pandemic continues, we have developed some perspective from the last year’s experience. We will always respond to emergencies as we can. But at the strategic level, the pandemic has made us hyper-aware of the need to work collaboratively to solve problems and to reduce the number of people in our communities living with one foot in the door of despair.
Accordingly, we plan to focus on innovative programming and funding approaches. We’re interested in supporting and developing collaboratives, with nonprofits rallying together to form strong teams of varied expertise to lift families from generational poverty; joint efforts with regional funders who have similar goals; and private/public partnerships.
The Fund continues to see our work as an investment. For the McGowan Fund, the ROI is families lifted from hardship and generational poverty to become self-sufficient, with the personal agency to flourish—and to face the next challenge. There will be one—we don’t doubt that—but we’re resolved to do everything we can to help build the strengths that people need to work, raise children, contribute to their communities, and live healthy lives.