Want to Give Locally? Check the Nonprofit Needs List 

For more than 30 years, the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay has been dedicated to making charitable giving easy, and impactful, throughout our region. It connects donors with nonprofit organizations, collaborates with philanthropists to create, and manage, foundations and invests, and distributes, endowments.

When the coronavirus crisis hit, the Foundation mobilized its funding resources and connections with the community to create the Nonprofit Needs List. This centralized list connects businesses, foundations and individual donors with local nonprofits that provide key services and address virus-related issues like social isolation and housing needs. Each nonprofit includes its most pressing needs on the list and the dollar amounts required to fund each project.

“When someone has dollars, and intent, and doesn’t know what to do, that’s tragic,” says Marlene Spalten, the director and CEO of the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay. “We want to come alongside and help with decisions and make people feel good about giving. The list helps us vet nonprofits and steward donors. It’s also public on our website, so anyone can give.”

Using endowment funds already earmarked for charity, the Foundation also launched the Fundholder Match Program. This program provides a 1-to-3 match for any initial donation to a nonprofit organization on the list. Every $3 given is matched with $1.

The response from nonprofit organizations, and donors, was immediate. When the list went live at the beginning of the crisis, it contained 487 projects totaling $21.9 million in needs. By the end of July, donors had funded 249 of those projects for a total of $12.3 million.

Redland Christian Migrant Association received a gift of $117,000 from an anonymous donor, and a $5,000 match from the Foundation, to provide basic needs for over 700 agricultural, working families in Hillsborough and Pasco counties.

Migrant farmworkers, like many others, rely on schools to care for their children while they work in the fields. When schools shut down, as a precaution against the spread of the virus, many had to stay home without the benefit of paid time off or unemployment checks. The need for food, basic supplies and help with housing costs spiked dramatically.

“I’m a former farmworker and I’ve worked with RCMA for over 40 years, and I’ve never seen anything as bad as the effects of the virus,” says Irma Chappa, director of the RCMA Western Region. “This gift allowed us to help our families with money for rent and utilities, for food and cleaning supplies and for baby products like diapers and wipes. It helped our families tremendously.”

Many migrant families have since made their way out of Florida and up the East Coast to follow ripening crops. Chappa worries that when they return in the fall they may face another crisis.

“Once our families return from up north, there may not be any work,” she says. “Whoever is able to continue helping our families, please do. They are truly grateful for the help.”

Another recipient from the list was Seniors in Service, an organization that connects volunteers age 55 and older with at-risk seniors, veterans and children, in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Polk counties. The nonprofit received an anonymous donation to start a new program called Telepals. The program addresses the loneliness, and negative social impacts, of quarantined and isolated seniors by connecting them with a volunteer over the phone.

The volunteer and senior “pair speak” at least once per week. Funding was used to train volunteers, and staff, and purchase some required technical equipment. Seniors in Service set up the first call, and checks in with the pairs after the first week, then after the first month and then quarterly.

“When the virus hit we saw an outpouring of people wanting to volunteer to help homebound seniors, but also wanting to stay safe and healthy. Telepals become the perfect vehicle,” says CEO Robin Ingles.

“We’ve heard from so many seniors that they were lonely and now they have someone to talk to and something to look forward to,” she continues. “The needs list gave us an opportunity to tell the community what our seniors needed, and we are so appreciative, and grateful, that the community responded.”

The Clearwater Free Clinic also turned to the list when it was forced to ask its volunteer-driven, largely older staff, to stay at home to avoid exposure to the virus.

“When COVID-19 hit, we had to change our whole model of care,” says CEO Jeannie Shapiro. “We asked volunteers not to come in and started making calls to patients instead. We realized now was the time to implement telemedicine.”

Through a donation from the Schwerin Family Foundation, and the Community Foundation’s match, a telemedicine program was established so the clinic could maintain care for its low-income, uninsured, patients. The program has been so successful the clinic plans to continue offering it in perpetuity.

“With over 3,000 patients, we are a very critical part of the health care of our community. This program means we didn’t have to shut down, or cut back on, services,” Shapiro says. “It’s amazing how quickly the funding came through. We are all so grateful.”

To learn more about the Nonprofit Needs List, and the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay, please visit https://cftampabay.org/nonprofitneedslist/.

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