Our Response to the COVID-19 Crisis

April 17th, 2020

At Arch Community Fund, we are all too aware that when a large scale crisis strikes vulnerable communities, the historical marginalization of these communities will compound the ‘normalized’ inequities that are created by the crisis itself. As so aptly stated by Vanessa Daniel at Groundswell Fund, “COVID-19 is a wake-up call for all of us to address the deep problems and injustices that underlie our economy, our political system and our community.”

Arch Community Fund grantees are on the frontlines of resisting and re-imagining the oppressive systems that harm our most vulnerable populations. Our grantees’ primary strategy is Transformative Organizing, which centers values of resistance, community leadership, systems change and intersectional racial justice. Because of our grantees’ focus on transformative organizing, rather than traditional campaigns, they are poised to have an especially significant impact in this moment. And yet like all organizations right now, they are facing major disruptions in their organizing work, their staffing, their supply needs and their organizational fundraising.

In this transformational moment, Arch is committed to the following:

  1. Renewing grants to all existing grantees and increasing funding levels. We are planning on renewing all 2019 grantees and increasing their grants by at least 20%, as well as initiating a new funding cycle. In all, we are doubling our 2019 grant budget in 2020. All funding is for core operating support and grantees can use it in whatever way they most need.
  2. Accelerating the timeframe on renewal grants. Our 2019 grant terms expire in June and we had planned to issue renewals over the summer; however, we have moved up our timeline in an attempt to frontload renewal payments to grantees by mid-May.
  3. Eliminating reporting requirements. We understand that reporting requirements detract from the time grantees need to focus right now in responding to the current crisis. We are not asking for any paperwork for 2020 renewals of 2019 grants.
  4. Investing our foundation assets to minimize harm and maximize impact. Arch Community Fund is in the final stages of its Investment Policy Statement that includes a decision not to invest any of its assets in the stock market and a commitment to seek out investment opportunities that democratize capital and wealth. We are about to make our first set of “high social impact investments” in financial intermediaries that have an important role in mitigating the impact of this crisis on vulnerable communities and in supporting a transition to a more just economy.
  5. Advocating for policy changes by and within philanthropy. This is an important moment for foundations to advocate for a transition to a more just, democratic and sustainable economy. That includes looking inward at the laws and practices governing those with wealth and philanthropy. Arch will support calls for changes in tax laws to make the wealthy pay their fair share and heightened requirements on foundations to ensure they serve the maximum public benefit rather than serving as vehicles for wealth preservation and perpetuating the status quo.

What has come through, during quick check-ins with many of our colleagues and grantees, is the depth of resilience among the most marginalized communities. Many of our grantee partners have long been operating in emergency circumstances and have established networks, pathways and communication systems that allow them to effectively deploy an influx of resources quickly.

We are encouraged by the many social justice funders who seem to be responding to the current moment by removing barriers to quickly get resources to groups on the frontlines. Now more than ever we need to trust the leadership of these grassroots groups to do what needs to be done to move us all through this crisis and beyond. The issues have not changed. The volume and opportunity for response and justice has. To quote James Baldwin, “The world is before you, and you need not take it or leave it as it was when you came in.” We are supporting our grantees to literally change this world.