Dear Charity Leaders and Donors,
These are unprecedented times. How often have you heard that sentiment lately? The last month has brought about organizational, social and economic changes that have been simply breath-taking! Over the last two weeks, many of us shifted our operations in dramatic ways as we moved to at-home offices and initiated disaster-response-like programs.
The dual COVID-19 pandemic and market crash have left us all with the sense that there will be no business as usual for some time. In fact, we are beginning to see more clearly that we are not merely waiting for the rain to pass, but preparing for a longer flood. Or, as the Praxis team wrote in the article linked at the bottom of this letter:
The novel coronavirus is not just something for leaders to “get through” for a few days or weeks. Instead, we need to treat COVID-19 as an economic and cultural blizzard, winter, and beginning of a “little ice age” — a once-in-a-lifetime change that is likely to affect our lives and organizations for years.
If there is one thing of which we are certain, it is that the COVID-19 pandemic is reaching and affecting every one of our charitable partners around the world. From the small coastal town of Malindi, Kenya, to the city streets of Beirut, to the islands of Indonesia, partners on every continent are adapting to new realities in the face of an unparalleled health and financial crisis.
We are wrestling with the question most of you are asking: What do we do now? We are so grateful to God that we can continue to grant as planned this year despite the market crash. A number of years ago, by God’s grace, we set in place a policy to always have three years of granting capacity set aside in short term bonds. So despite the significant losses incurred on the equity side of our investments (there is real pain here!), our granting funds are securely held for such a time as this.
Like you, we are asking Jesus for wisdom, grace and courage, and we are reaching out to our charitable partners and donor colleagues in pursuit of a coherent and collaborative response to this global crisis. How is Jesus asking us to respond? How can we be his hands and feet for such a time as this? We wanted to share with you some initial thoughts and to invite you to share your realities and insights. We desire to have an ongoing conversation with you so that, together, we can take our next steps in following Jesus into this bizarrely different season of life and mission
1. Reaching Out to Our Partners
We are actively reaching out to our charitable partners in Canada and around the world simply to check in and encourage them - to let them know that we ‘see’ them and acknowledge their current reality. We’re asking: “How are you doing? How can we pray? And how can we help?” We have been encouraged and sobered by the responses we’ve received so far. Connecting with our partners is more important than ever and we are grateful for the technology that allows us to do so. The call for physical isolation is not meant to sever relationships. Our social and relational connectedness is paramount during this time.
2. Connecting with Fellow Donors
We are also connecting with our donor colleagues so that we can find common ground and solid footing for a response to this truly global crisis. Like us, other foundations and philanthropists are wrestling with fundamental questions: What can we do? What should we do? Do we do this on our own or in collaboration with others? What might be most helpful to our charitable partners? Do we jeopardize our capacity for future giving by giving more now even though our assets have been significantly diminished? We are looking to each other for wisdom, insights and concrete next steps.
3. Looking Forward
We do not know what the next few weeks will bring. We certainly do not know what the next few months will look like. But it is our growing sense that, for here and now, God is calling us to press in and step up. We are sensing a need to do more rather than less, to act sooner rather than later, and to be more gracious with our granting process. We are not sure what this will look like, but we are listening to the persistent voice of Jesus encouraging us to be and do more.
As our foundation Directors meet to discuss, pray and discern, we will continue to share our thoughts and plans for responding to COVID-19 and the accompanying economic collapse. We also desire to help facilitate ongoing conversations with the donor community, the charitable community and both communities together. We need to talk about this! We can’t do this on our own.
We would be grateful to hear from you. What is your organization doing in response to the crisis? What questions are you asking? What counsel might you have for us? How can we pray for you? Feel free to reach out to me personally at email@example.com or generally at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sincerely and prayerfully,
Here are three resources that have been particularly helpful for us this past week:
Leading Beyond the Blizzard: Why Every Organization Is Now A Startup, by Andy Crouch, Kurt Keilhacker and Dave Blanchard, The Praxis Journal
A Growing Group of Foundations Pledge No “Business as Usual” with COVID-19 by Ruth Cambridge, Nonprofit Quarterly
A Call to Action to Support Canadian Civil Society in Response to COVID-19 by Brian Dijkema and Sean Speer, Cardus