Centering Community in a Pandemic

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June 2020

Dear Partners and Community Stakeholders

I have the distinct pleasure of sharing a new report entitled “Centering Community in a Pandemic.” A survey was developed in mid-April as the COVID-19 pandemic was ramping up, causing havoc and disruption all around the country. The partners collaborating with the Sanford Institute of Philanthropy felt a sense of urgency to learn quickly about the impact of COVID-19 on local nonprofits and the broader community.

The report combines data collected from 174 nonprofit organizations with thoughtful insights generated from structured discussions with key community leaders and stakeholder groups. The survey data and community input together have immensely enriched our understanding of the effects of the pandemic, and in particular of the significant impact that COVID-19 is having on people of color and marginalized communities in Alameda and Contra Costa counties.

In developing the survey and the report the partners were guided by a strong commitment to equity and social justice. COVID-19 has exposed and exacerbated the long standing structural inequities that disproportionately impact low income and disenfranchised communities. This report begins to identify opportunities for calling out these injustices and creating enduring systems changes to address them. Nonprofits, philanthropy, government, and business, working together and in partnership with community, must weave together a shared vision of a “new normal” that does not perpetuate injustice, inequality and racism. The “new normal” must be one that restores human dignity, compassion, justice, equity, and a greater sense of community! The tragic deaths of countless African Americans and people of color are top of mind for all those committed and involved in eradicating institutional racism. The peaceful protests we are witnessing around the nation and here in the East Bay reflect the anger, rage, and disappointment felt by many. With greater courage and fortitude, we can work together in rebuilding a more just and equitable society.

I want to conclude with a heartfelt gratitude to the nonprofits that participated in the survey and the community leaders who helped to deepen our consciousness of their struggles but also lifted up the incredible sense of community, courage, and creativity. The survey and the report would not have been possible without the time, talent, and treasure committed by our foundation partners. They are passionate about protecting and preserving a healthy and vibrant nonprofit ecosystem. They are not just grant makers. Without exception, each is a strong leader, an advocate for a just and equitable society that works and benefits all its residents. As partners, they are willing to hold themselves accountable while extending an invitation to government, business, and nonprofits to build a unified, purposeful, and strategic collaboration. We believe in the power, potential, and possibilities of nonprofits as agents of change and transformation. Thank you.

Solomon Belette
Director, Sanford Institute of Philanthropy
John F. Kennedy University

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