In life and in business, relationships were central to everything Bill Daniels did. Bill understood that we are all connected and believed we each should play a role making our community a better place. He once encouraged people to get involved by saying, “If you pick up the paper and read that the city's got a problem and needs something, don't wait to be asked. Let them know that you are part of the community and you're there to help them." And he did exactly that — when he heard about people in need, he was often first in line to help. After reading of someone falling on hard times, he was frequently inspired to anonymously leave envelopes of cash donations in mailboxes, in what became known among his associates as “drive-by giving.”
“When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it was clear that our communities would be facing challenges unlike any we’ve ever seen,” said Hank Brown, Interim President & CEO of the Daniels Fund. “We consider it an honor to be able to continue Bill’s legacy of giving and do our part in helping people in our four-state region of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming meet these challenges.”
Reflecting Bill Daniels’ personal style, the Daniels Fund Grants Program has spent years cultivating strong relationships with grantees based on collaborative partnerships. This foundation of existing relationships played a key role in allowing us to identify needs and act quickly. “Our Grants Program Officers spent the initial weeks of the pandemic proactively reaching out to each of our key grantee partners to understand how the situation was affecting them and the people they serve, and what role the Daniels Fund could play as a resource,” said Kristin Todd, Executive Vice President, Grants Program & Operations of the Daniels Fund. “For some, new funding was needed, for others, flexibility in existing grant terms to allow them to redirect funds as budget priorities shifted.”
Time is of the essence when it comes to nonprofits serving people with immediate needs or struggling to keep their doors open. The Daniels Fund's Board of Directors and management revised the quarterly grant approval process in favor of a nimbler approach which allowed them to get time-sensitive grants approved quickly and get checks out the door weekly.
The Board immediately redirected funds for COVID-19 emergency response grants, and within a few weeks had granted nearly $2 million to 26 nonprofit partners. These included collective efforts such as $100,000 grants to the Colorado COVID Relief Fund and New Mexico’s All Together NM Fund, as well as large grants to organizations providing basic needs such as Food Bank of the Rockies, Central Wyoming Rescue Mission, Volunteers of America, and more. We also supported many other needed programs including several Meals on Wheels chapters to provide meals and wellness checks for isolated seniors and others in need.
In May 2020, the Board allocated additional funds for COVID-19 relief and by the end of the year, the Daniels Fund had provided $4 million in COVID response grants. We continue to stay connected with our partners to understand their challenges and community needs as they develop.
Some of the most common themes of need we have found across our four-state region are:
Financial support is essential, but it’s just part of the equation. We recognize that nonprofits need to adapt to the changed environment by ramping up their capabilities in technology, fundraising, and other areas. The Daniels Fund has worked to connect our grantees to a variety of resources, webinars, and even individualized, pro-bono consulting from American Philanthropic to help them build their capacity.
Nonprofits are stepping up to help in innovative ways. Through a conversation with Mile High Youth Corps, we learned of the organization’s unique idea to engage young people who are eager to make a difference. A Daniels Fund emergency grant supported the new program to address a current shortage of volunteers (many of whom are older and need to social distance) and youth unemployment. The program hires young adults, ages 17-24, for COVID-19 response efforts benefitting individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, seniors, and other vulnerable populations through food distribution, wellness checks, and other needed activities.
Much of the COVID-19 relief funds are focused on the most pressing immediate needs, but when the dust settles, our communities will be faced with the monumental task of recovering from a devastated economy, shrinking state budgets, business closures, and staggering unemployment. Beyond short-term relief, the Daniels Fund has an eye on how it can play a role in strategic recovery efforts. As we emerge from sheltering and social distancing, we are looking to support innovative programs to help people rebuild their lives. We expect our traditional work in the areas of helping people retrain and connect with new employment opportunities to be an important part of getting people back on their feet during the recovery phase.
We are proud of our nonprofit partners and thank them for the work they are doing on the front lines of the COVID-19 response. Unprecedented challenges lie before us, but if we work together as a community, each doing our part, we can begin to rebuild and revitalize.