March 19, 2020

Town Hall With OCF Volunteers Sheds Insights on Local Needs

On Wednesday, March 18, 2020, dozens of leadership council members, board members and committee members—all OCF volunteers—participated in a virtual town hall meeting and provided input about their community needs in responding to the Coronavirus outbreak. 

Opening by Max Williams, President and CEO

Thank you all for joining us during this challenging and unprecedented time for Oregonians and our communities.

At OCF, we believe our primary role and responsibility is to ensure community members are cared for.  Never in the history of the foundation has it been more important for us to lean into our role as a statewide convener - bringing together this remarkable network of Oregonians who spend time and resources giving back to communities.  Thank you.

We’ve brought you all together this afternoon, our board members, members of our board’s committees, members of our statewide Latino Partnership Program Advisory committee, and leadership council members, to share the actions we’ve taken over the last few days but most importantly, we’ve asked you to join this call because we need to hear from you—on the impact this pandemic is having on your communities and what the most pressing needs are.

I want to start by acknowledging how difficult the past few days have been for all of us. We’re in the midst of three parallel crises - a public health emergency, economic turmoil and dramatic threats to basic service delivery to our communities.  As we know through our work in closing the opportunity gap for the most underserved Oregonians - this pandemic will likely fall  most heavily on those who can bear it the least: Oregonians who are older, who have disabilities or medical conditions, who are low-income, geographically isolated, black, indigenous and people of color.

What Our Communities Need

Solving this crisis will mean full engagement of the sectors that support us every day: health care, state, local and national government, community organizations and philanthropy. Our goal today is to share a bit about our next steps and listen to you as we at Oregon Community Foundation develop strategies to address widespread needs in Oregon communities that grow more acute every day.

We have begun to outline our mechanisms of response to the crisis, which is shaping up in three ways.

The Oregon Community Recovery Fund

In partnership with many other foundations in Oregon, we set up a pooled fund - open to any contributors and managed collectively with many foundations across the state. The fund is set up to rapidly deploy resources to community-based organizations at the front lines of the coronavirus outbreak in Oregon and OCF welcomes all donors and foundations to partner in fulfilling the fund.  Contributions have been pouring in – nearing $4M.

The second fund is an OCF COVID Fund - available to current (or new) OCF Donors who are interested aligning funding to ensure long term recovery and resilience of Oregon communities.

For current grantees, we’re looking at ways to make OCF grants that have already been paid out FLEXIBLE so organizations can shift the purpose of their grants to address what is needed most—supporting our grantees to continue the critical work our communities count on while addressing declines in revenue.

We’re focusing on organizations across the state who coordinate, respond and provide emergency services for basic needs. This includes emergency food assistance, rental assistance and access to shelter.

And, we’re shoring up the nonprofit infrastructure with bridge funding during this time when they are seeing decreased revenue due to canceled performances, fund raisers, reduced fee-for-service etc.

Last, we want to identify the critical needs of the most vulnerable Oregonians who are facing severe challenges related to COVID-19. We have heard from many of you that need has grown during this fast-moving crisis. Thank you to those of you who responded to our four questions that we sent out with the invitation to this town hall.

At OCF, we believe we are uniquely positioned to lead conversations and engage others in filling gaps in funding not met by the public or private sector during the crisis, including:

Addressing the increased need for child care during school and day care closures.

  • Support for hard hit small businesses. OCF has created and Economic Response Team, working with public/private partners.
  • Addressing social isolation of seniors and others during social distancing
  • Providing educational opportunities for kids out of school.

We are already hearing from you and other communities about how neighbors and communities are shifting to support each other. Thanks Gayle Yamasaki, a leadership council member in Klamath Falls for letting us know that Charter Spectrum is providing free internet for 60 days for families there. Jackie Lester, a leadership council member in Cottage Grove, shared with us that there is an email stream and digital newsletter for family support providers and community members, as well as the faith-based community. Several of you are sharing the schools are ensuring that kids are fed while schools are closed.

We want to make sure that resources are rolled out equitably and our communities are getting what they need in a timely fashion.  We also understand that OCF must be here in the short-term for this crisis, and ensure we’re keeping an eye on long-term needs for community and economic recovery and resiliency

I know there is more for us to consider, and that’s why you are all here. Thank you.

We understand that this situation is serious and we have never experienced anything like this before. We also know that as Oregonians, we come together in times of crisis and today is no different.

Attendees shared community needs

A few themes emerged from feedback provided by attendees:

  • Arts organizations: Canceled performances and closed facilities have taken a huge toll on nonprofits that rely on tickets and admissions. OCF is exploring offering bridge funding.
  • Children: Support for shelters and relief nurseries are needed to ensure equitability.
  • Education: Closed schools and distance learning bring up equity concerns as children have uneven access to technology and safe environments for learning. A caller identified the need for every student to get a laptop.
  • Small businesses: Many small businesses have already laid off workers. OCF is exploring support strategies such as a dedicated fund or loans.

What you can do

While things continue to change on a daily basis, here are things that we’re asking people to do now: