In early March of this year, adversity challenged us all in ways for which we were not prepared. As the COVID public health emergency mounted, All Star’s staff doubled down on the monthly check-in calls with grantees and learned that many of them were postponing fundraisers, canceling programs, and struggling with how to move forward.
Our grantees are small, emerging organizations with very limited financial resources. So, not hosting an event, not being able to meet with donors, or losing revenue from school contracts would significantly impact their ability to continue their work. We created our Rapid Response Fund and distributed $160,000 to current and past grantees. This support helped our grantees not only keep their doors open and their lights on but allowed them to continue the services and programs that address the needs of underserved youth.
While the financial support was a critical lifeline for our grantees, it quickly became evident that we needed to provide capacity building support that addressed the real-world and rapidly changing needs of nonprofits in times of crisis.
Once the CARES ACT was introduced, All Stars staff started hearing from grantees about additional challenges: cash shortfalls, uncertainty in applying for SBA loans, questions about managing remotely. With support from Ensemble Capital, Point-Slope Capital, and Deloitte, Julie Brown, Program Director at All Stars, created what we called our “Help Desk” – a team of experts who could help our grantees navigate through the SBA, PPP, and other loan programs as well as provide management and operational expertise.
Based on their input, we first created a “Nonprofit Survival Toolkit” that provided some tips and advice on managing through a crisis, managing stress, and wellbeing, and fundraising as well as providing an overview of the PPP process and other loan programs. We also conducted webinars on cash flow management and fundraising in times of crisis. But it was the one-on-one technical assistance and support provided by our board members and advisors as part of the Help Desk that really made the difference.
As one grantee stated, “They helped us sort all that out and were helpful at a critical time. We got a PPP loan that I didn’t know we were even eligible for.” Twelve current and former grantee organizations which received Help Desk assistance were awarded PPP loans. “All Stars was quickly able to notice what was needed because when you think of your work as being about family and community, you don’t wait till someone asks for help.”
JG Larochette, Executive Director and founder of the Mindful Life Project in Richmond, California, shared “We were able to adapt to online programming quickly due to the timely support received from All Stars and help keep our students and their families healthy amidst all the uncertainties. They not only helped with a Rapid Response grant, but staff and board members offered advice with our fundraising efforts. They stepped up and showed up."
One of our grantees, San Francisco Achievers – an organization that provides college scholarships, leadership training, and mentoring for black youth – was looking to provide laptops and support for their graduating high school students so they could start college in the fall with the digital tools they need to thrive. All Stars Development Director, Manju Ramachandran, reached out to our network and worked with the SF Achievers team to secure 25 Dell Laptops from Computacenter as well as laptop cases and backpacks from Amazon.
While none of these steps were in-and-of-themselves unique, we approached our work with deep listening and high touch engagement, coupled with curiosity, humility, and honest two-way communication. Staff followed the lead of our nonprofit partners and responded to their specific needs. The results are authentic partnerships grounded in a mutual relationship of trust and co-creation. And not only are our grantees still standing, but they are also innovating, adapting programs, and launching new programs and services.
As the Covid pandemic continues to ravage communities, as racial injustice and economic inequality continue to plague communities of color and other marginalized communities, and as nonprofits struggle with the on-going economic crisis, we must recognize that money in and of itself will not solve the challenges before us. Addressing issues of institutional racism, intergenerational poverty, and ingrained social injustice require a long-term approach that incorporates grantmaking, capacity building, coaching and technical assistance, and networks to create an ecosystem of healthy, strong and innovative nonprofits.
About All Stars Helping Kids
All Stars Helping Kids, a grantmaker located in Santa Clara, CA, invests in emerging nonprofits working to disrupt the cycle of poverty for Bay Area youth. All Stars and our portfolio of innovative nonprofits work to ensure youth in low-income and marginalized communities have access to a quality education and the support needed to go on to college, the skills and resources they need not to just get a job but a career, and that they can stay healthy in body and mind.