Member Spotlight – The Healy Foundation

We are hearing from a lot of our members about how they are changing their giving in response to COVID-19. Stories inspire and we want to share some of them with you. Each week, we will introduce you to a member of GOSW who has responded to COVID-19 and what that looks like through sharing. This week, Suzanne Geary, Executive Director of The Healy Foundation, answers a few questions about how things have evolved in the midst of this crisis. 

Before COVID-19, what were your priorities as a foundation/funder?

Prior to COVID-19 we had committed to being a 100% trust-based funder focused on nonprofit organizations in Oregon and Hawaii working in one or more of the following issue areas: climate change mitigation; protecting ecosystems; reducing child poverty; youth education; and youth advocacy. We define trust-based as providing unrestricted grants, and we mean truly unrestricted–most of our nonprofit partners direct our grants to their general operating needs, but some apply our grants to specific projects.

In brief, how has your foundation been able to respond to COVID-19 (for example, changed guidelines, relaxed requirements, etc.)?

  1. We established a COVID-19 response grant. Grants are 100% unrestricted; up to 25k; awarded weekly; brief application of three short questions; and while all nonprofits in Oregon and Hawaii are eligible to apply, priority is given to organizations working in the following areas: domestic violence; human trafficking; food business; hunger; child care; frontline health providers; and digital access.
  2. We removed reporting requirements for existing grantees.
  3. Our ongoing grant process typically has two stages (LOI and full application). While we are dealing with COVID-19 we have removed the full application stage of our process. Grants will continue to be awarded quarterly and decisions will be based entirely on the LOI.

Have you changed the process of how you give and, if so, how have you changed it?

As I mentioned above we had already committed to giving unrestricted grants. Our temporary COVID-19 response grants follow that commitment. However, we have increased the speed of our decision-making with our COVID-19 grants. Typically we make grant decisions quarterly; for COVID-19, we are making decisions weekly.

In what ways, if any, have you partnered with other funders (for example, contributed to pooled funds, worked with government agencies, collaborated with planning, matching specific funds, etc.)?

We are participating in funder calls in both Hawaii and Oregon and are open to partner more deeply with other foundations. We will be engaging in a collaborative effort in Hawaii soon; in Oregon we are learning and sharing with other funders but are not part of a joint fund to date.

Are there any situations/stories that you find nonprofits are facing that really resonated with you (either challenges or inspirational) that you feel capture what they are going through or how they are responding?

It’s impossible to land on a single story. In this time where every day feels like a week, it is impossible to truly grasp what nonprofits are facing now and the what the lasting impact will be. I am, like all of us I imagine, worried. At the same time, I think it is more important than ever to maintain hope and take action to do something even if it’s not perfect. We can adjust as we move forward and learn. I am grateful to be a part of an organization and community that has the ability to respond. At The Healy Foundation, we received dozens of requests within hours of announcing our COVID-19 response grant and the count grows every day. Pick any of our issue areas in any setting – rural or urban – and I could share nonprofit teams mobilizing to respond. Thousands of additional meals required, with new health restrictions on delivery. Established revenue streams evaporated overnight. Bracing for surges due to exponential increases in unemployment. Our nonprofit partners are facing massive challenges on immediate timelines. While we do not fund the arts, it has been devastating to see the impact of COVID on the arts community. As philanthropists we can support resilience. We can respond to those timelines of urgency, adjusting our giving practices right alongside our partners.

If there was one learning or realization that you would like to tell other funders, what would that be?

Prior to COVID-19, trust-based philanthropy was building some momentum, but not at a scale on par with the research. There have been many articles written on the importance of unrestricted funds for nonprofits. A bright spot from this crisis – I believe — is that so many foundations have come forward and released restrictions or taken other measures to make the grant seeking process easier for nonprofits. I believe this will lead to even greater partnerships between nonprofits and funders that I hope will then result in enduring changes to grantmaking programs beyond COVID-19.