SFF response to COVID-19

Posted on May 20, 2020

The last few months have truly been an unprecedented period in time. This pandemic has further exacerbated the devastating realities of unjust systems and how they disproportionately impact black and brown communities, immigrants, undocumented workers, families, LGBTQ and homeless populations. The inequities in our economic, health, and education systems are highlighted in the barriers to accessing food, health, information, and digital supports for school at home, and as we receive disaggregated data on Covid-19 infections and death.

We have seen incredible support from individuals, philanthropy, and communities to lift up and support our neighbors. Our nonprofit partners have adjusted their work quickly to ensure that vulnerable populations have access to information and basic needs and to advocate for inclusive policies and put a stop to racist and Xenophobic acts against Asian Pacific Islander communities. During this time, I’ve been reminded of the incredible resources we have locally by the following nonprofit capacity building organizations. I hope you get the chance to check out the rich resource lists, tools, webinars, and online learning.

501 Commons
Communities Rise
Washington Nonprofits

As a foundation, we know it is important to leverage our influence and voice to take swift steps in times like these to respond to our community, and that advocacy and equitable policies across our portfolios are needed now more than ever. We want to be transparent about the actions we’ve taken to date. The team at SFF have been participating in weekly calls on regional funding efforts across King, Pierce, and Snohomish Counties and we have been reaching out to our partners to better understand how individual organizations are being impacted. We are now preparing to move from an immediate response phase to a strategic rebuilding and transformative phase, as we know that many organizations are working tirelessly to uphold our democracy and secure the future rights of those who are most vulnerable as November approaches.

Below is a list of actions we’ve taken, and a note from Brianna Jackson, our Education Program Officer:

  • Contributed $1.3million dollars to date on top of our 2020 grant budget.
    • The majority of our immediate response funding went to support regional funds in King, Pierce, Snohomish, and Yakima counties, including the Washington Food Fund to address food insecurity across the state.
    • We extended emergency grants totaling $400,000 to current and past education partners who maintain trusting relationships with vulnerable communities, and who are being asked to pivot to support their constituent’s basic needs.
    • We supported the University of Washington’s Virology lab to increase testing, research and coordination.
  • We signed the Council on Foundation's Philanthropy Pledge to act with urgency and to be flexible with our current partners.We will explore additional supports over the next 9 months prioritizing our current grantees.

We continue to engage with other local funders to stay informed on gaps while we wait for federal funding to settle. We are exploring additional ways that we can add value, including using our voice to influence future local, state, and federal funding.

A note from Brianna Jackson:

As we venture further into this new “norm” and come together as communities; education has been on the frontline of this pandemic scrambling to figure out how best to support children and families. Very quickly, systems were adjusted to accommodate the stay-at-home order. And while we as cities and as a state respond to life at home; we see schools and community-based organizations elevate the importance of ensuring that children have the basic needs necessary before they can even begin to focus on academics. We see confirmed how critical family engagement and supports are to our children’s success and that deepening our conversations around racial equity in regard to access to services, programming and opportunities is not optional.

COVID-19 has shaken our community to its core and lifted up the preexisting cracks in our systems. Before COVID-19, community-based organizations and schools were constantly dealing with inequities now amplified by the crisis. The technological divide among families, the social and emotional safety of children, the shortfall in the way we fund special education, lack of authentic family partnerships, and our most vulnerable neighbors being left out of vital supports. We also see greater numbers of childcare providers in danger of closing their doors at the same time making an effort to offer critical care to families while fighting for the recognition they deserve. We know COVID-19 will have long-term impacts and as we think about recovery, it cannot be without action taken to adequately address the challenges and barriers families and organizations face.

What we are learning during this time is that what is possible now, can and should be possible always. There has been incredible collaboration and intersection between sectors as we respond to this crisis. Organizations and people are showing up in amazing ways for children and families. How do we preserve this passion and commitment? How do we drive forward our lessons learned to create real change? The systems in which children and families move through have a real moment and opportunity ahead to do things in a different way; in a better way. The opportunity to create inclusive systems where children don’t have to leave their culture and/or language at the door to fit in or be accepted; systems where people come first, and discussions are centered around opportunities instead of limitations. Our children and youth right now are the next generation that will be making decisions about our future. Now is the time to show them that we see their future as bright and that we will make them our priority.