Philanthropy Row Collaborations Confront Coronavirus

Apr 28, 2020

As part of our ongoing series Making a Difference, produced in cooperation with the Community Foundation of the Ozarks, we present another Conversation on Collaboration.  Today, we look at collaborative solutions put forth by the CFO, The United Way of the Ozarks, and the Community Partnership of the Ozarks, to support local and regional COVID-19 coronavirus relief efforts.

Brian Fogle is president of the Community Foundation Of The Ozarks.

"I remember having breakfast with Clay Goddard, who's head of the health department and a friend of mine, back on February 26. And he intimated to me that I didn't sleep very well at night because they had had a call with CDC. So that was to me sort of the first inkling that something might be brewing that would impact us," said Fogle.

President and CEO of The Community Foundation Of The Ozarks, Brian Fogle
Credit Community Foundation of the Ozarks

"We had reached out to two of our great funding partners, the Missouri Foundation for Health, and the Lewis and Julia Dorothy Coover Charitable Trust, managed by Commerce Trust. And we committed a million dollars for response," said Fogle.

"On March 16th, we opened our COVID-19 Relief and Response Fund. And then by midweek we did reach out to United Way and Community Partnership of the Ozarks. We knew we needed to get together and address this collectively," said Fogle.

And collectively with each organization located near Jefferson and Trafficway in Springfield, Missouri, the area is known by many as Philanthropy Row.

"Yeah, Philanthropy Row is a term that we came up with as we're a stone's throw from each other," said United Way Of the Ozarks president, Greg Burris. "You know, I can throw a rock and hit CPO or CFO, although I try not to do that," said Burris.

The United Way of the Ozarks, with its 22 agency partners, is focused on the education, health and financial stability of the families and communities it serves in its 14 county area of operations. Greg Burris says collaboration makes the United Way of the Ozarks Corona Virus Response Fund possible.

"Collaboration is in the water here," says Burris. "Us working as sort of a triad. I have daily Zoom meeting with Janet Dankert at CPO, and Brian Fogle with Community Foundation, and we just try and make sure that we're doing things in a coordinated fashion. And by working closely together, we make sure we eliminate duplication, but we also get kind of a bigger bang for the buck," said Burris.

"We've never been through anything like this before," said Janet Dankert, president and CEO of The Community Partnership of The Ozarks.

"And so if the three organizations went off on our own and just started doing things independently without communicating, coordinating it could make things in the community even more chaotic. And we certainly don't want to do that. We want to make sure that the community knows we're there for them and that we are still providing quality level of services even during a certain time," said Dankert.

President and CEO of The Community Partnership Of The Ozarks, Janet Dankert
Credit Community Partnership Of The Ozarks

Janet Dankert says the Community Partnership of the Ozarks mission is to build resilient children, healthy families, and strong neighborhoods and communities.

"We began as a program of United Way," Dankert says. "We still continue to be the priority partner for United Way. Our missions compliment each other and with United Way being the fundraising arm and philanthropic arm, as well as a convener in the community, and CPO being the program service convening arm around community issues, it just makes sense for us to be very collaborative together. We've also always collaborated well with CFO. They're one of our biggest partners. We received grants from them, but we also convene around issues with them as well. The COVID-19 has increased and enhance that collaborative relationship for sure," said Dankert.

Janet Dankert says the Community Partnership of the Ozarks submitted a grant request for $20,000 from C.F.O. COVID-19 relief funds, in the first round of applications for allocations.

"One of the most immediate needs that we saw was to help shelter our hyper vulnerable unsheltered population, our homeless friends who were susceptible to COVID-19," said Dankert.

"So we wanted to make sure that we could isolate and contain them because we knew there were probably about a hundred folks who had either chronic health conditions because of age, pregnancy or a combination needed to be isolated and contained. And so the best practice way that we found that has worked in other communities was hotel rooms. So we wrote a grant to CFO for sheltering those folks for 30 days in a hotel to keep them safe and contained, so  that the virus did not spread throughout that community because they're already a vulnerable community. And so we don't need anything else to impact even further. So that is how we're using C.F.O. Funding that we received in the first round," said Janet Dankert.

United Way of the Ozarks President Greg Burris says his organization's first allocation of Corona Virus response funding was April 13th, after asking partner agencies what they needed most.

President and CEO of United Way Of The Ozarks, Greg Burris
Credit United Way Of The Ozarks

"You know, they were in scramble mode because they were trying to change the engines on the airplane while it was in the air," says Burris.

"They were having to figure out a new way of doing business and offer services, you know, right in the middle of all this. But they couldn't close down your food pantry or you're offering certain kinds of services to, you know, victims or domestic abuse victims, you don't say, well, sorry, we're closed for 96 hours while we figure out how to do this. You just basically press on. The top three needs were  easily funding, cleaning supplies and other kinds of supplies that the rest of us are finding difficult to find, whether it's hand sanitizers or paper towels or toilet paper. And the third was food. And I think in after talking to our agencies, I could probably easily say the top three are money, money and money. But those are the three that came back on the survey," said Burris, who encourages community support through https://www.uwozarks.org/community-challenge/

Brian Fogle says the Community Foundation of the Ozarks COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund grant program differs  from other programs in that there is no set deadline date to apply.

"These are what we call rolling grants. So there is no deadline. People can apply whenever they want," said Burris.

"And then our grants committee meets every week and they kind of do a triage and they look at what are those immediate needs that we need to address. And again, those are senior needs, child care for health care workers, food insecurity and the homeless. And so our initial grant had been to address those needs," said Fogle.

The United Way of the Ozarks, the CPO and the Community Foundation of the Ozarks are continuously updating the needs of their nonprofit agency partners at www.cfozarks.org/immediateneeds.  Of the original one million dollars in CFO's COVID-19 Response Fund, $300,000 came from the Missouri Foundation for Health, $250,000 from the Coover Charitable  Trust, with the remainder from C.F.O. Discretionary funds and its regional affiliate foundations. As of today, 28 April, over $335,000 has been allocated to 32 non-profit agencies.

CFO President Brian Fogle says the triad of partners from Philanthropy Row is in it for the long haul.

"We also know from our work with other natural disasters that there will be needs down the road, such as mental and behavioral health needs, because this stress is taking its toll," said Fogle.

"We also know from natural disaster work that domestic violence, family violence goes up because of, again, added stress and sometimes families doubling up and the economic stress of it all. So knowing three months from now and six months from now and a year from now, there will be continued needs, we will be there to help our communities and our region address those needs," said Fogle.