Supporting Our Community During the COVID-19 Pandemic

A Message from ECMC Foundation President

March 20, 2020

Friends and colleagues,

Communities across the U.S. and the world are facing unprecedented challenges caused by the spread of COVID-19.  

The impact on our public health, economy, as well as daily lives, is felt by everyone — yet, the consequences will continue to be the most severe among communities served by our grantee partners, which are predominately low-income communities and communities of color. This impacted population includes students and their families from low-income backgrounds and organizations that serve them.

Deja Vu for Our Grantees and for Higher Education?

However temporary this new social distancing and work-from-home paradigm may be, it is increasingly clear the economy will suffer a downturn that will negatively affect higher education institutions, and the community organizations that work in the sector. I served as the CFO for the University of California during the Great Recession of 2008-09. Just as we had to do then, I can foresee an upcoming period of difficult decisions that will need to be made as institutions look to tighten their belts, at a minimum, and possibly completely reinvent how they go about performing their work.

I wonder if now is the time to help organizations reimagine how to deliver the best possible education for our nation’s students? I wonder how institutions can address not only the economic downturn, but also the expected decline in traditional college-aged students, the drastic shift in student populations driven by unemployed and underemployed adult learners who need reskilling, and the growing use of technology to deliver content? I’d welcome hearing from you about ideas to improve and shift the higher education culture to be more responsive to this new normal. Please email us at ecmcfoundation@ecmc.org.

Ultimately, each of us, regardless of what role we play, is called to the frontlines in moments of national crisis. We asked ourselves: As funders, how can we rise to this challenge and be the best stewards of our mission? We strongly believe that philanthropy is uniquely positioned to provide funding to mitigate loss and offer relief. We also believe philanthropy can play an even more impactful leadership role in the communities we serve if we come together and leverage our collective strength, resources and talent.

As a result, the ECMC Foundation team has been working diligently to make these determinations, and collaborating with our partners in the field.

Support for our Grantees

One of the first actions we have taken is to institute a COVID-19 Rapid Response Small Grants Program, through which our existing grantees are eligible to submit a request for up to $10,000 for any costs the organization has incurred or expects to incur as a direct result of the pandemic. We realize that this is by no means a solution to the strain this pandemic is having on the capacity of grantee organizations to do their work and sustain operations. It is simply an acknowledgment that the strain exists and is the first step in our desire to be helpful.

We will also allow greater flexibility in our grant monitoring process. Grantees will be able to adjust most grant budgets without seeking prior approval, delay reporting and monitoring check-in calls, and make necessary changes to grant timelines and outcomes. We also plan to donate most funds extended for now-canceled conferences and events.

Finally, we remind you that there may be opportunities for grantees to reduce expenses and save funds through refunds on previously paid travel, among other strategies. Our program officers would welcome hearing about the steps you are taking that can be shared with other grantees.

Our Work Continues — Remotely

During this time, the core work of ECMC Foundation will continue as our team exercises caution and follows guidelines placed by health authorities and the local, state and federal government. Currently, our office in downtown Los Angeles is closed and the team is working remotely. All staff travel, meetings and convenings are postponed until further notice. We will be available by email, phone and video-conferencing. Importantly, our regular work continues and we remain open to consider letters of inquiry and new proposals.

Further Action

In the very near future, we will be working with our colleagues in philanthropy, partners in higher education and experts in the field to determine additional long-term strategies to directly address the impact on students. Our hope is to remain engaged with you, and we plan to share further updates on our website and social media accounts. We look forward to continuing our important work with you.

In unity and with deep appreciation,

Peter J. Taylor

President, ECMC Foundation


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