The following guest column by Gulf Coast President/CEO Mark Pritchett appeared in the March 21 edition of SRQ Daily:
The coronavirus pandemic is testing everything we know and believe in. From daily routines to long-term plans, uncertainty and disruption are the new normal.
For philanthropy, the big challenge is responding effectively when knowledge and needs change more often than daily. Some of the most transformational initiatives we’ve built at Gulf Coast Community Foundation benefitted from diving deep into an issue, mapping the terrain, piloting the most promising solution and then scaling it for systems change. Right now, we don’t have that luxury.
Less than 48 hours ago, our Board approved Gulf Coast Community Foundation’s COVID-19 Response Initiative. It is a joint effort with Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation to strategically deploy philanthropic resources to help ensure our region’s immediate and long-term well-being. We aim to strengthen our health and social safety net to help those who are most susceptible to the devastating impact of this pandemic. We also will look to our donors to rise to this challenge with us.
Initially, we will focus funding and other support on trusted partners among our region’s lead health, human service and safety organizations. The nonprofit and public agencies that coordinate these systems will face unprecedented strain. Many of the community members impacted by this crisis will be seeking health or social services for the very first time. Simply guiding them to the assistance available and helping them navigate the system will increase the burden on our partners. Together, Gulf Coast and Barancik Foundation will provide those partners with immediate relief and build their long-term capacity to continue providing critical safety-net support, even as the number of clients and complexity of their caseloads grow.
We are also leveraging the generosity of our Gulf Coast donors in this effort. Commitments to our initiative fund currently stand at $1.5 million, but we are challenging donors to match that total. At the same time, we encourage them to keep giving directly to their favorite charities, whether theater groups, animal shelters, tutoring programs, or other worthy causes. We encourage them to do more — to consider an additional gift, above what they are already giving — at a time when more is needed most.
It can feel paradoxical to invoke “community” right now, as we socially distance and circle the figurative wagons around those closest to us. But as a Gulf Coast Board member said it so well when we (virtually) met on Thursday to launch our initiative: “This is when being part of a community really matters.”
In that spirit, here are some more things we all can consider, in addition to charitable gifts to efforts like our COVID-19 Response Initiative or the Community Foundation of Sarasota County’s Season of Sharing Fund:
Heed the experts. Our local, state and federal public health officials are best informed to advise us on how to combat the spread of the coronavirus in our communities and our country.
Keep your tickets. Our arts and cultural organizations are being ravaged by the realities of the containment strategies we must follow. As performances and events are canceled, please consider foregoing any refunds for tickets or sponsorships and instead view those purchases as investments in the survival of the organization.
Self-sacrifice. From checking in on neighbors to buying a take-out meal for someone, there are countless ways — both simple and creative — to be a good citizen right now. Self-sacrifice is giving up something you may want for the greater good of everyone. Let’s view this as an opportunity to demonstrate that by doing the right things for the right reasons for each other, our community and our society will be stronger when this crisis ends.