COVID-19 Response: Brooklyn Community Foundation Awards $500K in Grants with More to Come

When tragedies like COVID-19 arise, marginalized individuals and communities often face disproportionate hardship (and longer-lasting effects) as a result. Racism, violence, poverty, hunger, and lack of access to essential care and services make challenging situations that much more unmanageable—and the support of organizations like Brooklyn Community Foundation that much more significant. 

Brooklyn Community Foundation Logo

Founded in 2009, Brooklyn Community Foundation is focused on creating a fair and just Brooklyn through grants funding, advocacy, community-building, partnerships, and knowledge-sharing. The Foundation uses Submittable for strategic grantmaking that serves youth, immigrants, and elders—with a focus on communities of color. In the past eleven years, they’ve awarded over $50 million dollars in grants to more than 300 Brooklyn nonprofits. 

What Brooklyn Community Foundation did 

In an effort to protect and support Brooklyn community members most likely to be impacted by the coronavirus, Brooklyn Community Foundation launched its Brooklyn COVID-19 Response Fund for area nonprofits on March 13, 2020. The foundation created two applications: one with two questions for returning grantees and another with four questions for new applicants. 

Within ten days, a first round of grants was deployed, focused on efforts including anti-hunger campaigns, advocacy for low-wage workers, and care for immigrants and elders. The foundation will continue to make grants weekly, with a total fund of over $2 million and $500,000 in grants to date.  

How they did it

Board mobilization

According to Vice President of Programs and Partnerships Marcella J. Tillett, the foundation’s board enabled the organization to move fast in their response. 

A real game changer for us to be able to act quickly,” she says, “is the support and leadership that came from our board. They very quickly mobilized to create a fund and be the first contributors to that fund. Each one of our board members gave something which is huge.” 

The board also approved a draw down of $700,000 from the foundation’s endowment to seed the fund, ensuring that significant giving could begin right away. 

Strong partnerships

Tillet notes that the ability of a foundation to respond with urgency when needed relies on strong relationships. 

“As staff,” she says, “we try to develop trusting partnerships with nonprofits so that as things emerge, whether it’s an emergency like this or just everyday work, they feel like they can trust us and come to us.

Thoughtful guidelines

Brooklyn Community Foundation made sure to consider time constraints on the nonprofit organizations they will be supporting with the COVID-19 fund, dramatically streamlining the application process. 

“Even before our COVID-19 response,” Tillett says, “we’ve been working to minimize the burden on nonprofits because we understand that even the process of applying and responding to RFPs, that’s labor. There are pieces of information that we would like to know about the organizations applying for grants but if they’re not pieces of information that we will use to make the funding decision, we’re not asking for them now.” 


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What’s next

Brooklyn is continuing to face extreme losses and hardships as a result of COVID-19. Especially impacted are communities of color, the groups Brooklyn Community Foundation serves, which make up 70% of Brooklyn’s population.   

In addition to urgent community needs, Brooklyn Community Foundation also recognizes that the effects of COVID-19 will be ongoing. As Tillett observes, “we’re continuing to refine this project, to pay attention to where the need is and where the gaps are.”

The foundation will be accepting grant applications for up to $10,000 from new and returning grantees for immediate response projects, with applications reviewed and funding granted on a weekly basis. 

Learn about how Submittable is helping organizations respond to COVID-19. For more on organizations like the Brooklyn Community Foundation giving back through COVID-19 grants, check out this recent spotlight.

Rachel Mindell

Rachel Mindell is a Special Projects Editor at Submittable. She also writes and teaches poetry. Connect with her on LinkedIn.