Seattle Foundation Blog

Community-led Response toward an Equitable, Inclusive Recovery

Fund for Inclusive Recovery builds on lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, moving from immediate response to inclusive recovery.


December 03, 2020

By Kris Hermanns, Chief Impact Officer

We are experiencing a moment of reawakening. The announcement of renewed statewide restrictions to fight the novel coronavirus heighten the need to support our community members most affected by the pandemic. Governor Jay Inslee’s announcement happened against the backdrop of a divisive political season. Through it all, our community has come together to ensure our most vulnerable workers and families are looked after, but we have much more work to do.

Times of crisis intensify existing inequities. Our community and country witnessed this early in the pandemic. Over the past several months, the stark disparities have become more evident. When Seattle Foundation helped to launch the COVID-19 Response Fund in March, it quickly became apparent that Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) were hit much harder by the pandemic. We know these communities have struggled with chronic underinvestment and systemic racism for decades, and the disparities are exacerbated by historical inequities. BIPOC communities are far more vulnerable to housing instability, health complications, income disparities, and a host of other challenges that came with COVID-19.

Trusted partners on the ground, with a history of serving vulnerable communities, were key partners to responding to the crisis. Meanwhile, dozens of companies and thousands of individuals donated to the COVID-19 Response Fund. Together, we have raised over $36.5 million. More than $20 million has already been granted back into the community — into the hands of frontline organizations serving those affected first and worst. Currently, we are deploying the third phase of funding to help sustain the trusted nonprofit organizations that have stretched themselves to respond to the growing needs of their communities.

Building on this emergency relief fund’s momentum and lessons learned, we are excited to launch the Fund for Inclusive Recovery, in partnership with many across our community. This new, pooled fund will drive investments to BIPOC leaders, organizations, and communities most impacted. The Fund will create a pathway to an inclusive recovery for the Greater Seattle region. Founded on the belief that we all do better when we all do better, these targeted resources will help our community emerge from this crisis as a stronger, more unified region.

The Fund is firmly grounded in data collected over the past several months with our research partner and strategic advisor The Bridgespan Group. To identify meaningful impact-ready investments, Seattle Foundation conducted interviews with community leaders and area experts, held small group conversations with key stakeholders, and researched promising practices and organizations. This process ensures that the Fund for Inclusive Recovery will reflect and elevate the voices and perspectives of community members who are at the center of challenges—and know the solutions best. Below please find our research findings, which we encourage you to review and share. This research was guided by community partners and we are honored to share it widely with the Greater Seattle region.

We worked with the Community Advisory Group, a group of 22 local, mostly BIPOC leaders who have guided our COVID-19 Response Fund grants, to identify investments that will build organizations’ capacity. These investments will provide flexible, sustained funding for organizations, boost grassroots organizations and leaders, support or create a community-determined fund, and offer working capital for chronically under-resourced organizations.

The Fund will also invest in efforts to further expand the civic participation of BIPOC communities and amplify their power. This will require investments in deepening participation in civic and public life, as well as building and sustaining the pipeline of BIPOC leaders, especially youth leaders. In addition, the Fund will advance existing structural reform and power-building efforts — doubling down on what is working to make our community more equitable and a place where everyone can thrive.

The Fund for Inclusive Recovery will help lay the groundwork for reinventing our region after this crisis. Targeted support will allow BIPOC organizations, leaders, and communities to make progress across various issues, including housing and homelessness, education, behavioral health, food security, and criminal justice.

We have already seen the power of our coming together to respond to COVID-19. On October 28, our COVID-19 Response Donor briefing outlined several ways the emergency response has mitigated the pandemic’s impact, especially for Black, Indigenous, and communities of color who have been bearing a disproportionate share of the devastation. The value of community giving cannot be understated – more than 6,300 donors contributed to the Response Fund with gifts ranging from $5 to $5 million.

The Fund for Inclusive Recovery is another example of how donors can pool their resources to maximize and track their impact, resulting in more significant long-term effects. A pooled fund provides an opportunity to coordinate investments, reduces application fatigue for grantees, and demonstrates that philanthropy is listening to community partners. This new Fund shows that we are coming together, once again, in a unified way.

Momentum from the COVID-19 Response Fund must continue as our community recovers from the pandemic and reimagines a different future. It starts with donors and partners like you. Your commitment to the Fund for Inclusive Recovery allows us to deepen our investments in organizations and efforts that will make a meaningful difference in the future of the Greater Seattle region.

We aim to raise $50 million for the Fund for Inclusive Recovery over the next five years. Smart, strategic philanthropy will lead to greater equity, opportunity, and vibrant communities for all.

Join us today.

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