We at the Dean & Margaret Lesher Foundation write to you in the hope you are safe and well as the COVID-19 pandemic hits the world, nation, state, and our own cherished community of Contra Costa County. We are reaching out to convey to you our deep appreciation for the vital work that you are doing during this challenging time. Please be assured that the Foundation will be responding to the crisis by underscoring our commitment to all members of the community.
We share with you the values of compassion and dedication to our community of Contra Costa, particularly the most underserved. We are grateful for the work you do every day to create a community in which every person has the opportunity to thrive and reach their fullest potential, in particular, the work you are doing right now to support our community through this period of tremendous adversity. Together, through partnership, collaboration and our collective commitment to put our care for the community into active response efforts, we will find our way forward.
The Lesher Foundation has been engaging with the community and our nonprofit partners to understand the impact of COVID-19 on individuals, families, communities, and nonprofits. What is clear is that no person, no issue, and no sector is left untouched. It affects everything and everyone, especially the underserved, with inequities made more stark in this time of crisis. The situation and needs continue to evolve, but these initial days have identified that access to food, ensuring ongoing access to services for homeless populations, financial assistance for families, and supplies for families and nonprofits are immediate top priority needs.
For nonprofit organizations, the impact is severe, and we are hearing from our partners in every sector—education, youth development, early childhood, family support and strengthening, the arts, homelessness and housing, food security, interpersonal safety, mental health counseling and trauma, job training, senior services and every other community service— that it is an unprecedented time of challenge.
The Foundation is continuing to develop and evolve our response as the situation changes and as the needs, along with the approaches that will be most impactful, become clearer. At this time, we want to share with you the immediate steps we are taking to support our nonprofit partners and the community.
Simplifying Grant Processes
Increasing Flexibility: During this period of crisis, we want to provide as much flexibility as possible for our nonprofit partners, including:
- Provide significant flexibility related to grant reporting. Nonprofits can keep reports very brief, using the online grant system or by calling Foundation staff to provide a brief verbal report. Grantees can also email us and let us know that you can’t complete a report at this time due to the work and stress of the crisis and we will process the next payment. If partners would like to submit a report to share updates and information at a future date, while still receiving payment at the regular due date, that works too.
- We recognize that many activities in grant contracts cannot be done and won’t be accomplished due to the physical distancing and stay at home orders. We will accept alternative activities and recognize that fewer (or in some cases no) services will be provided in this time period.
- Grant funds that are program specific may be utilized as general operating funds for the remainder of this year so that nonprofits can respond to the crisis and prioritize as makes the most sense for their organization. This includes but is not limited to that grant funds may be used to pay staff who are not able to provide services at this time; you may need to use funds for needs not in the current grant, such as laptops for staff or clients to have remote access; or you may need to use grant funds for services that are different from regular programming to meet the needs of your community in this time.
Commitment to Current Grants: The Foundation will continue to make payments for existing grants.
Simplifying Renewals: The Foundation is putting in place a simplified renewal application process for this spring and summer. We are working to complete a revised, brief application by the end of this week and will be providing detailed information about it to our partners who have grants coming up for renewal. We know that nonprofits do not have time and bandwidth during this time for full-fledged renewal application processes.
Addressing the Needs of the Most Vulnerable First: The Foundation is making a series of grants to address the most pressing community needs that have emerged thus far, including access to food, particularly for children, youth and seniors, and support for continuation of homeless services given the high risk status of individuals who are homeless. We will continue in the coming days and weeks to work with our partners to identify ways in which we can best support the most economically fragile individuals and families in the community to meet basic needs. We know that multiple strategies and initiatives by government at all levels, philanthropy, and communities are needed during this time. The Foundation is committed to continuing our efforts to support the most vulnerable individuals and families.
Next Steps as the Situation Evolves: We recognize that the situation, needs and challenges are continuing to unfold and change. We know that nonprofit organizations are working incredibly hard right now under highly stressful conditions. We have heard a range of needs for families, communities, and nonprofits to deal with the pandemic’s impact. The Lesher Foundation is committed to understanding the issues and identifying how we can respond most effectively and meaningfully and will continue to dedicate additional resources for COVID-19 response. The Foundation is here and dedicated to the community of Contra Costa, working together with our partners, today and for the long term.
We send our heartfelt hope and wish that you, your families, colleagues, and clients stay safe and take the very best of care.