The need is great, but we must rise to the challenge
Nonprofits are stepping up and stepping in where private business and government are falling behind due to COVID-19. The Columbus Foundation, among others, are on the front lines of the Columbus community, battling the fallout from the worldwide pandemic in five of the hardest hit sectors facing dire consequences—Housing, Hunger, Seniors, Arts, and Learning Centers. They’re making strides—but not nearly enough.
Now, more than ever before, as we enter the holiday season, they’re saying if you can give—GIVE. From evictions to unprecedented needs for food and safe learning environments, your dollar may be the only thing that makes a difference for Central Ohio families come winter.
Dan A. Sharpe, Vice President for Community Research and Grants Management at The Columbus Foundation, was pleasantly surprised at the viral success of their record-breaking 25-hour online event The Big Give in June.
Held after three months of COVID-19 lockdown, the unprecedented $32 million raised generated not only local interest, but acclaim across the country. More important to Sharpe was the fact that, at a time when Central Ohioans needed nonprofits and their programs the most, the Foundation was able to provide funding to 1,100 charities that serve individuals in need. He says donors understood the challenges faced by the local community and so gave more generously and readily.
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“Many more donors are giving unrestricted gifts to organizations, rather than pegging dollars to a specific program which may have experienced pandemic-related disruption,” said Sharpe. “Since summer, [The Columbus Foundation] has shown an increase in collaboration and a willingness to lean-in and accomplish collective goals.”
It’s not just money, either, that nonprofits need right now in the midst of the ongoing pandemic—it’s your time. For those with time to give, POINT’s app makes it easy to find volunteer opportunities as does Seeds of Caring, which helps connect children with service opportunities; and Besa, which helps coordinate community-wide service projects.
If you have a knack for speaking and mission organization, consider the Human Service Chamber of Franklin County. HSC has nearly 100 member organizations and a Board Member application and matching process in order to benefit local human service agencies.
But the most important thing is that you give. As we enter the winter season, Sharpe said it will only get worse, particularly in five major sectors of the community: Housing, hunger, senior citizens, arts, and learning.
In housing, homes are being lost due to nonpayment and adding to the homeless population; in hunger, a nearly 30% increase in need are people who have never stood in line for food before; and as schools continue to remain closed or hybrid, children, particularly in low-income areas, have nowhere to go for schooling and are failing. Senior citizens and the Arts also are in desperate need of support.
It’s a dire situation that will be exacerbated by a long, cold, Ohio winter. And as the holiday season kicks in, and those who can, prepare to give, Sharpe says you can start by giving to these five verticals; you can also head to the Foundation’s Giving Store, where organizations can be found by neighborhood, keyword, and mission focus area.
“It is a challenge knowing that there are limits to how much The Columbus Foundation can do as an individual organization, especially when we see so much need in the community. But, we look for the helpers, and we look to empower the helpers, who are doing incredibly hard work—heart work—to keep our community strong and connected,” Sharpe said. “Our near-term focus will take extraordinary steps, going above normal investment allocations and tapping into reserves, to address some of the most pressing challenges our community faces.”