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Anticipating needs before they’re needed

United Way of Central Carolinas and Foundation for the Carolinas help nonprofits by preparing assistance before it’s requested

A food pantry accustomed to serving 100 families a week adjusts to feed more than 1,000. An organization set up to support children in schools quickly pivots to create phone- and text-based check-ins. A shelter for victims of domestic violence finds new ways to create a healthy and safe community while maintaining physical distancing.

In the greater Charlotte, N.C. area, as around the country, nonprofit groups are rethinking how to continue their missions during a global pandemic. Says Laura Clark, president and CEO of United Way of Central Carolinas (UWCC), “They’ve had to figure things out in 24, 48 or 72 hours.”

UWCC is acting fast, too. Its COVID-19 Response Fund helps dozens of local nonprofit partners continue providing essential services. The fund started with a call in March 2020 between Clark and Michael Marsicano, president and CEO of the Foundation For the Carolinas (FFC). Though it was still unclear what the effects of the virus would be, Clark and Marsicano decided they would rather be “on the right side of wrong,” she says, by over-preparing.

We didn’t know how this was going to affect North Carolina communities, but we knew we wanted to be on the right side of wrong.
Laura Clark | president and CEO of United Way of Central Carolinas

They approached local governments and businesses for help. On March 27, 2020, the same day the federal CARES Act was signed into law, the COVID-19 Response Fund announced grants to 14 nonprofits totaling nearly $3 million. By late the following month, the fund had raised more than $17 million, including $1 million from Bank of America, which has committed $100 million to address health and humanitarian needs related to the coronavirus, which is in addition to the $250 million in philanthropy the bank provides annually.

The grants enable organizations to deliver food and hygiene kits to homeless children, provide mental health services to support families, and meet other critical needs. As important as the money is, so is the speed at which it’s being deployed. Because grants from the fund are unrestricted, recipient organizations have the flexibility to react quickly and respond to real-time needs, be they helping families who need food, providing laptops to support remote learning, or setting up mental health services via phone and online.

While the needs have been immediate, Clark is making sure the fund will help nonprofits find new and better ways to serve their constituents for years to come. “This is a long game,” she says. “We're going to figure it out together.”

Partnerships between local organizations bring together resources from within the community to enable rapid responses in times of need. Learn more about the part Bank of America is playing, including its additional $100 million commitment to support local communities.

Originally published 5/14/2020