Crisis at Scale is an Invitation to Share & Learn at Scale

I hope this newsletter finds you staying healthy and productive during these stressful times. From social distancing, and donning masks, to remote work and school, and determining which phase of re-opening our communities have entered, there’s a lot to get used to, and many updates to track.

Here at my desk in California, my husband and kids have been at my home office with me daily since mid-March. We are fortunate that the children are school-aged and that their teachers have been providing remote instruction that keeps them busy most of the day.

However, this routine has also made me painfully aware of the inequities of this sudden leap to technology-based learning. Though some schools are making laptops available, not all families have Wi-Fi at home so children can connect. And in helping a local teacher communicate with Spanish-speaking families in my community, I’ve also discovered that some families fear accepting laptops on loan because they worry their children might break them, so they opt for worksheet packets instead.

In a world where only those with access to technology receive regular interaction and instruction from their teacher, it’s clear that many students will get left behind. The tragedy of this is magnified when one considers college-aged young adults who may find themselves now lacking a supportive learning environment or, in some cases, even becoming homeless.

Student poverty is a huge issue. It’s reminding me of our ongoing work on the Scholarships for Change platform, where we are tracking information about how donors are able to use scholarship dollars to create social impact. Some of the case studies there now take on new resonance, such as Ascendium’s emergency student aid program, which provides critical support for students in crisis. Does your organization award scholarships or student aid? How has your support of students changed due to the crisis? Given this ongoing effort, GrantCraft is interested in featuring blog content about adaptive approaches donors are using to equip students during these difficult times. Let us know so we can help you share what you are learning.

Education is just one of many such issues that are magnified by this pandemic, which is expanding divides between the haves and have-nots in wide-ranging areas of essential needs, such as health, hunger, housing, and employment. Here at Candid, we’ve been tracking how philanthropy is using its grant dollars to respond to the scale of this crisis. Our COVID-19 Pop-Up Page is providing free access to grants information, rapid response funds, COVID-related RFPs, and related news.

The grants data updates regularly, and, as of this writing, we are mapping a total of $10.5 billion of grants awarded in response to the crisis. Are your grants on our map? These tools are incomplete without your participation. The majority of this data comes from either news sources or directly from funders electronically reporting these grants to us. If your organization has funded efforts related to the crisis, please share information on this grantmaking so we can include your COVID-19 grants on our free, public map. We even have templates for submitting your information. Just be sure to include either the term "coronavirus" or "COVID-19" in your grant descriptions so they end up in the right place.

Candid’s COVID-19 web page also shares insights from our staff about what we are learning from our data. For example, I recently examined how foundations that participate in our GlassPockets transparency program are communicating about changes they are making to grantmaking practices. You can find out more about the communication trends I identified. This effort led to a recent “Community Conversation” co-hosted with PEAK Grantmaking during which we captured more information about practice changes that funders are making now, and which ones we hope are here to stay. These include things like streamlined applications, wider adoption of electronic submissions and payments, and increased use of general operating support and participatory grantmaking.

On that latter point, you may already be familiar with GrantCraft’s field guide on participatory grantmaking, Deciding Together. But did you also know we share the mechanics of how funders have made such efforts work? Since shifting power is taking on new resonance now with many working to lift the burden on grantees, and considering how to better learn from community voices and expertise, GrantCraft is interested in lifting up case examples and mechanics of participatory grantmaking during the pandemic. How do you balance the need for participation at a time when many community leaders are dealing with crisis? Let us know if you have lessons that we can share on our platform.

I realize this is a lot of questions for one newsletter, but hopefully it’s a good reminder that everything we do in philanthropy is ultimately about sharing and learning, and the knowledge that we are in this together makes social distancing, and the scale of this crisis, just a little more bearable.


This letter originally appeared in GrantCraft's newsletter. To stay updated with our newsletter and special alerts, sign up here.

About the author(s)

Senior Director of Learning Experience