CDP COVID-19 Response Fund: A Look Toward Recovery in 2021

Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) distributes hygiene kits in the Beka'a Valley in Lebanon to assist refugees with personal protection and household sanitization. These items are critical for refugees whose livelihoods have been further challenged by the country's ongoing economic crisis. (Photo credit: SAMS)

In 2020, the Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP) COVID-19 Response Fund marked several milestones for our organization. It was – and still is – the largest pooled fund we at CDP have ever managed. And as a result, we were able to make 135 grants to 131 organizations for a total of nearly $20 million.

We focused our first five funding rounds on making rapid-response grants even though, as an organization, we usually prioritize mid- to long-term recovery following disasters. We knew that getting dollars out the door quickly to those organizations working on the ground to educate, inform, provide for basic needs and prevent the spread of COVID-19 was most critical in mitigating the long-term recovery from the effects of the pandemic.

Our grantmaking to support global recovery from the effects of the pandemic will continue in 2021. But what does that mean? What does “global recovery” from a pandemic look like? What will be our funding focus as vaccines are now approved and being distributed?

Evolving impact of COVID-19 on communities worldwide
Globally, the economic impact of social distancing, social isolation and stay-at-home orders has far-reaching implications for working people, especially those with already limited resources and those who rely on a gig or market economy.

Significant job losses, the closing of businesses and limited access to basic needs and other resources continue to be critical challenges, even as some cities, states and countries have begun to reopen. Many of those communities that reopened have been forced to shut down again as outbreaks and virus mutations continue worldwide.

Additionally, populations located in areas where social isolation protocols are near-impossible continue to experience devastating effects. Refugee camps, prisons, homeless camps or shelters, informal urban settlements or any place with high occupancy in enclosed areas are at greater risk for significant viral transmission.

Vaccines are now available, but distribution will take time. Getting those vaccines to enough of the population to control the virus will take even longer, particularly to those locations most difficult to reach.

Our approach
For each round of grantmaking, the CDP team does a deep-dive assessment. We focus on population (who has the greatest needs), issues (what exactly is happening and needs to be addressed) and geography (where needs are greatest).

In the United States, it is clear that immigrants, refugees, communities of color and other vulnerable communities are the most affected by the pandemic, as we know is the case in all disasters. So we seek opportunities to fund organizations that advocate for these populations and those providing direct support for them. Though we have already funded these organizations, we know there is much more we can do.

We are steadfast in using a social and racial justice lens for our grantmaking. We are committed to mobilizing our philanthropic resources to create real, transformative change by listening, learning, understanding and investing in organizations led by Black, Indigenous and other leaders of color. We will use our platform to stand up for what is right, just and fair. We add our voices to stand in solidarity with the courageous people working for change.

Our funding focus for 2021
Moving into 2021, the CDP COVID-19 Response Fund will focus on addressing the following issue areas worldwide:

  • Mental health
    Psycho-social support will be a major priority moving forward as we have already witnessed the toll this pandemic is taking on our collective mental health.
  • Physical health
    We will continue supporting effective communications about the virus and vaccines to combat disinformation and misinformation. We will look to support fair distribution of vaccines to ensure that even those locations and populations most difficult to reach will have access to these lifesaving opportunities.
  • Economic impact
    We will look to provide for basic needs as economic uncertainty continues.
  • Health care systems
    We will support overwhelmed health care systems around the world to enable their ability to provide prevention and treatment for the virus. Whether it’s support for vaccine distribution or providing continued access to health care, this will be critical to managing long-term healthy recovery from the pandemic.
  • Most affected populations
    We will continue to provide resources to efforts that mobilize and amplify the voices of communities and populations most devastated by the pandemic to improve their access to much-needed sources of support.

Appreciation and hope
This past year has been one of uncertainty. We’ve felt fear and anguish as we’ve watched COVID-19 case counts rise. Our collective hearts have broken at the death toll and the worldwide impact on our economies and our very livelihoods.

But I also think it’s shown us that we must be steadfast in our commitment to helping one another – to sometimes simply being there for one another – even if being “there” is a bit different.
We’ve seen this in the creative ways teachers have managed remote learning and friends and families have celebrated events together but apart.

We’ve seen this in the tremendous financial commitment from donors like Dolly Parton, the Gates Foundation and numerous other foundations and corporations digging deep into their pockets to ensure vaccines were developed quickly and will be shipped and shared universally.

And we’ve seen it in donors like Mackenzie Scott, whose gifts to nearly 400 universities, colleges and nonprofit organizations will result in true long-term organizational change for those she funded, including CDP.

At CDP, we anxiously look forward to our recovery from this pandemic and are grateful to play a small role in supporting that recovery. We also look forward to learning from and sharing our experiences as grantmakers through this process. We appreciate the many donors to the fund for putting their trust in us to do what we can to collectively support a global recovery.

And, as we all wait our turn for a vaccine, we will continue to support one another by remaining committed TOGETHER – masked up and from a distance of at least six feet apart.

Sally Ray

Sally Ray

Director, Domestic Funds

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