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The Year That Called for Courage and Principled Leadership

A letter from the 2020 annual report

Dear Friends,

Thank you for sharing your time with us as we reflect on 2020.

Our fiscal year of 2020 began with excitement as we considered the next large-scale, high-impact national initiative. With our allocation strategy of directing 50 percent of annual grant dollars to regional support and the other 50 percent toward national, sustainable strategies, we believed it was the right time to start our third national project.

Fast forward to March 19, 2020, and my request for the board to consider emergency funding for nonprofit partners in our regions: COVID-19 hit abruptly and relentlessly. In a matter of weeks?—days?—the number of infections and then the number of deaths skyrocketed. We actually saw temporary “mass graves” because medical administrators weren’t able to identity patients and notify families. Families couldn’t visit even when they did know that a loved one was hospitalized. Babies were born without fathers present. And for those already living in poverty, the devastation was immediate and severe. Low-wage earners found themselves without jobs, food, and sometimes housing. As millions of people were ordered to shelter in place, domestic violence rose and youth disappeared.

Add to this the devastating deaths occurring across the country, the protests that turned to looting and violence, conversations about equity without a plan for systemic change, and a presidential election, and one crisis snowballed into another. The ramifications of deep poverty were never more vivid. And never before has there been a time when ethical leadership and collaboration were more needed.

In April, the McGowan board decided to defer the next national initiative until after the COVID and economic crises. When will this be? We don’t know, but we know that we are deeply committed to supporting our regions.

We are in awe of our nonprofit partners, first responders, healthcare workers, and all other essential workers during this time. We talk a great deal about McGowan’s six principles regarding leadership and were so proud when so many partners and volunteers showed up to demonstrate: accountability, character and integrity, courage, empathy, resilience, and self-awareness.

Especially courage—that’s the theme of this book. While the virus rages on today, nonprofits continue to serve; philanthropy continues to try to take on more; and all of this is done with grace under enormous pressure.

Some believe that the nonprofit sector does not collaborate easily. After this year, I would strongly suggest that many proclaiming to be leaders of this nation could take a lesson in collaboration for the betterment of our country from the amazing nonprofit sector.

We hope you enjoy reading about the wonderful work that happened this year. Know that the McGowan Fund deeply appreciates and values you.

With warm regards,

William P. McGowan, Chair

Diana K. Spencer, Executive Director