Let’s Live it Well: Family Funders Investing in Capacity When It’s Most Needed

fabric heart on rope

Even in times of good health, nonprofits operate under tight financial and human capital constraints. As the devastating effects of COVID-19 have unfolded over the past few months, we have seen far too many nonprofits who do some of our most important work—providing essential services to children, the elderly, the homeless, victims of violence—and those who bring us joy and truth, arrive at the brink of survival.

However, amidst all of this hardship, we have also had the immense privilege of witnessing philanthropy rise to the occasion to meet these needs with powerful grace and presence. In fact, thanks to the foresight of Catchafire’s 55 grantmaker partners, nonprofits have posted nearly 3,700 organizational and operational needs since March 1 on our marketplace, asking talented pro bono professionals to volunteer virtually. Over 13,000 volunteers have newly registered on Catchafire during that same window to meet the challenge. Together, nonprofits and volunteers have created nearly $10M worth of critical operational needs met in the last 75 days alone.

Although every partnership we build is nuanced, most include the grantmaker sponsoring access for their grantees to our marketplace where nonprofits can select from a menu of carefully pre-scoped projects and post them to our network of volunteers. Access to the marketplace is complemented by our Nonprofit Advisor team who hosts topical webinars and provides 1:1 training and consultations to ensure that the nonprofits feel fully empowered and equipped. With the grantmaker supporting the ecosystem, the entire experience (and all help received) is completely cost-free for the nonprofits.

Two NCFP Friends of the Family who have leveraged our capacity-building model are the Walter & Elise Haas Fund and the Hellman Foundation. Both members of the Catchafire Bay Area Collective (BAC), the Walter & Elise Haas Fund and the Hellman Foundation are among six funders based in the San Francisco Bay Area who are committed to providing virtual operational support to their grantees. Since launching this partnership in August 2018, they have helped these nonprofits connect to volunteers who have given $4.2 million in skills-based support for critical capacity-building needs.

Walter & Elise Haas Fund

For partners like the Walter & Elise Haas Fund, having Catchafire in place prior to the COVID-19 outbreak has enabled its grantees to continue to do their critical work without missing a beat. The Rising Sun Center for Opportunity in Oakland, California, provides job training to underserved youth and adults to address climate change and economic inequity. Rising Sun posted an Impact Report Graphic Design project on the Catchafire platform. The money they saved from receiving pro bono support for the project was redirected to continue paying stipends to the participants in its Women Building the Bay construction class, which had to be put on hiatus due to COVID-19. They were able to match with a volunteer who is designing the impact report completely pro bono. The Community Music Center in San Francisco, California, a nonprofit that makes high-quality music accessible to people of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities, matched with a volunteer on Catchafire to create a marketing strategy to help the organization connect with students who are interested in online learning.

The Hellman Foundation

Guided by their belief that long-term social change is accelerated by grantee-centric and trust-based relationships, the Hellman Foundation, managed by Hirsch & Associates Philanthropic Advisors, incorporated Catchafire into their grantmaking program last year. Hellman saw the value in Catchafire’s responsive capacity building platform by helping provide their grantee organizations with much-needed technical support and assistance, while also allowing the foundation to learn and understand organizational needs across their entire grantee portfolio.

The Hellman Foundation’s Collaborative Change Initiative supports collaborations working across organizations and sectors to scale exciting solutions and impact systems, tackling disparities in health, education and opportunity. One Collaborative Change Initiative grantee partner, End Hep C SF works alongside organizations like DeLiver Care Van and the Hepatitis C Warmline at UCSF, towards hepatitis C elimination in San Francisco. As these organizations are all adapting during the pandemic in order to continue fulfilling their missions, they are utilizing Catchafire to address their capacity building needs for both their individual organizations and collectively, including a logo design project, a translation project, and a tech systems call.

As foundations are trying to make their funds and support go further and nonprofits are looking for cost-free ways to make their ends meet, professionals from across the country are looking for ways to give back. That is why we exist—to facilitate these connections and collectively rise to the challenge this crisis has presented. We also realize that it’s more important than ever for foundations and nonprofits to have fiscally responsible options that enable them to do the most good possible, in the most sustainable way.

The Maclellan Foundation

Grantmakers like the Maclellan Foundation in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and 100 of their Tennessee-based grantees, joined our community in 2019. Maclellan wanted to offer a tool to their grantees that would empower, enable, and support them in getting the help they need when they actually need it.

When Maclellan grantee Chattanooga Sports Ministries needed help recruiting new mentors despite facing COVID-19 restrictions, they were able to post their need and match with a volunteer within days. Another Maclellan grantee, the MOMentum Network, an organization that provides educational and financial resources for single moms, is working with one of our volunteers to create an ad campaign designed to reach those single mothers to let them know that help is available to them during this crisis. The Maclellan Foundation is continuing to innovate and iterate on their established history of ensuring nonprofits have the tools they need to do their best work.

Despite the hard work ahead to help rebuild and recover from this crisis, our team has been overwhelmed by the goodness of humanity we’re witnessing—from the volunteers who are working tirelessly to make their time in quarantine count, to the funders lifting restrictions on grant funding, to the nonprofits fulfilling their missions at all costs. We look forward to seeing our impact grow as we continue to collaborate with family foundations throughout the country.

To learn more about the nonprofits using Catchafire, click here. For more information, please reach out to juliette@catchafire.org.


The views and opinions expressed in individual blog posts are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the National Center for Family Philanthropy.

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