Reflecting on one year of the Greater Cleveland COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund

Female food drive volunteer hands out food
Rapid Response Fund Community Report Cover Image

Download the Greater Cleveland COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund Community Report here.

It’s been just over a year since life in Greater Cleveland was upended by the COVID-19 pandemic. Soon after the first cases were officially reported in Ohio, a group of funders in our community came together to launch the Greater Cleveland COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund to quickly meet emerging local needs and support nonprofit organizations working on the frontlines of the pandemic. Since then, more than 80 cross-sector partners have joined the Fund and more than 2,500 individuals have made donations. In its first twelve months, the Fund raised $20 million and awarded more than $14.1 million through 264 grants.

Our region has a long road to recovery ahead of us, and the Rapid Response Fund continues to raise and give out money to support organizations meeting our community’s most pressing needs. The Fund recently released a community report reflecting on its first twelve months and outlining what’s ahead. Below, we share a few highlights from this report. We invite you to download and read the full community report here.

A phased approach

When the Fund was first created, the top priority was to get dollars into the community as quickly as possible to support the people and organizations most impacted by COVID-19. After five months of grantmaking, the Fund had spent down its initial pool of dollars, awarding more than $8.6 million to nearly 160 organizations across Northeast Ohio. Recognizing that there was still a great deal of need in the community, a coalition of partners announced the launch of Phase II of the Fund in September 2020. To determine how the Fund should operate in its second phase, Fund partners analyzed what happened in Phase I and undertook a community engagement and listening process to get input from nonprofits and residents. The partners ultimately agreed on six fundamental principles to guide their work:

  1. Collaborate across sectors
  2. Commit to racial equity
  3. Influence through policy and advocacy
  4. Learn, set goals and measure together
  5. Elevate on-the-ground voices
  6. Ask nonprofits for innovative ideas to address these issues

Lessons learned

The community report details the top ten lessons learned by the partners through this work as well as how they are applying the lessons and living into the six guiding principles. Download the community report to explore the following lessons learned and how they are showing up in the Fund and partners’ work: 

  1. We can move fast and be nimble 
  2. We can do more together 
  3. We can learn from one another 
  4. We can fill gaps together 
  5. We can be responsive to community needs in real time 
  6. We have an immense role in recovery 
  7. We must continue to leverage the “hub and spoke” model 
  8. We need to be both responsive and proactive 
  9. It’s hard to be nimble and share power 
  10. We must leverage policy and advocacy 

Looking ahead 

There is hope on the horizon as more people get vaccinated, but there is still a need to quickly deploy resources in response to the pandemic. As the Fund partners continue their response to immediate needs, they are also thinking about how to help the local nonprofit community be resilient in the long run. By listening to the community and focusing on long-term systems change, we can emerge from the pandemic in an even stronger position than before it hit. Check out the community report to learn how partners are addressing long-term issues and how you can get involved in the effort. 

You can learn more about the Greater Cleveland COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund, including its recent grantmaking, and make a gift to support the Fund’s work here.