Nonprofits across the Tampa Bay region have recently found their services in high demand at a time of shrinking revenue streams.
The Community Foundation of Tampa Bay, which connects donors, nonprofits, community and business leaders, saw the problem and devised a way to get money where it’s needed in a faster, targeted way.
The group created a database of more than 377 organizations seeking funds, with a breakdown of how the money would be used. The list is accessible online, where anyone wanting to donate can search by an organization’s name, category, the amount requested, the area served and the number of people to be helped.
Nonprofits can submit requests, which are added to the list after the foundation verifies them. The foundation updates the list as requests are funded by donors.
The total need exceeds $15.4 million, with requests ranging from $500 to $1 million. Projects include providing personal protective equipment to health care workers and keeping the Florida Orchestra’s musicians paid.
“It’s been a flurry,” said Marlene Spalten, CEO of the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay. “We had to pivot quickly from long-deliberated plans for spring. … We’re dealing with philanthropy, but the greatest amount of money is from the government. The federal government is not known for pivoting well, yet disaster happens.”
So far through the database, the foundation has processed $763,410 in donations from private donors and organizations, and the foundation has kicked in $127,803 in matching funds.
In addition, the group has expedited $1.64 million in semiannual endowment distributions to 211 nonprofits that hold endowment funds with the foundation. The foundation administers those funds for those who don’t have the resources to do it.
Endowments are often used for operating costs like salaries and mortgage payments, Spalten said. While many nonprofits qualified for the paycheck protection program in the federal CARES act, which allows a loan to be turned into a grant, the funding ran out before many of them could receive a share.
The Community Foundation also released more than $183,000 from donor-advised funds or family foundations, an existing source that could be helpful for nonprofits to tap into, Spalten said.
The database details which projects have been fully or partially funded. Some are awaiting funds. After basics like food and shelter, the greatest needs listed are education-related.
One project from Cristo Rey Tampa Salesian High School, a Catholic preparatory school for underserved students, seeks $5,642 to equip four school buses with Wi-Fi to serve as hot spots. The vehicles will be driven into rural areas outside Spectrum cable’s coverage area in Wimauma and Ruskin.
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Terrie Dodson-Caldeville, director of communications at the school, said Cristo Rey got wind that some students were gathering at McDonald’s to complete their work.
This year saw the school’s first graduating class, she said. Most students have jobs to pay for tuition; the coronavirus has added more challenges.
“For many, they are the first person in their family to go to college and some even to graduate high school,” she said. “Not everybody has Wi-Fi or an adult available to help them during school hours. ... We’re all learning to adapt to a new normal.”
Shepherd’s Village, an organization that supports single mothers, is seeking $11,400 to provide weekly meals and hygiene essentials to their clients.
“All moms were working moms,” said April McKnight, community outreach coordinator for Shepherd’s Village. “But half are finding themselves with decreased hours or lost jobs. In a single-parent household, you’re one person taking care of everything. Now they’re parents, school teachers, everything. ... But what we’re seeing right now is our greatest need is we have been providing food for moms three times a week.”
Kathy Rabon, vice president for philanthropy at Suncoast Hospice, said their needs are continuously growing as bereavement requires more technology.
“The grieving process for people losing a loved one right now is very different when people can’t be with them or even see them after the loss,” she said. “It’s really important we maintain those connections.”
The group has tried to incorporate music therapy and provide patients with iPads to stay in touch with loved ones.
It also is seeking donations for a program to bring food and hygiene kits to elderly adults who live alone.
Other projects range from a $500 request from Youth and Family Alternatives to provide Pasco County students with school supplies, to a $1 million request from the Lowry Park Zoo Society, the estimated cost to care for the animals while the zoo expects to be closed. The Poynter Institute, which owns the Tampa Bay Times, has requested $100,000 to go toward funding six reporters for 13 weeks at the newspaper, with a share to Poynter as fiscal sponsor.
A full list of projects is available at cftampabay.org/nonprofitneedslist. Grants totaling $175,000 from the Helios Education Foundation, Florida Blue and Humana were used to meet the most immediate needs of some nonprofits on the list.
Spalten, the foundation’s CEO, said the pandemic could provide some good lessons for the nonprofit sector.
“We could come out of this even in a better place,” she said. “If we learn lessons from this, we better build our capacity in the nonprofit world in using technology and how we deploy resources.”
But the crisis, she added, is far from over.
The people who usually volunteer and give donations aren’t able to help nonprofits like they did before, Spalten said. “We want to make sure nonprofits survive the immediate crisis and get back to what they’re doing even after the immediate transition.”