There is Only the Whole Person: Philanthropy at foundry10 During COVID-19

The struggles of thousands of families in Washington state have intensified as the pandemic continues. Here’s how foundry10 has pivoted to support.

Photo by Joshua Eckstein on Unsplash

As we reach the one year mark of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are humbled by the magnitude of loss accumulating around us; loss of connection, loss of learning, loss of life. While our goals as a philanthropic educational research organization center around expanding the way people think about learning and creating direct value for youth, this milestone in the pandemic calls on us to broaden our approach.

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Philanthropic endeavors at foundry10 have never been one-size-fits-all. We don’t follow the traditional grant structures that many organizations are bound by. We believe that educators working directly with students know and understand the needs of their students in ways that we, as outsiders, cannot. So when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down schools in March 2020, our natural first response was to reach out to the educators and non-profit organizations in our network and ask, “how can foundry10 best support the distance learning of youth in your classrooms and communities?”

Through these conversations, we quickly realized that we were asking the wrong question. Yes, youth needed resources for distance learning. But educators, embedded in the daily lives of their students’ families and communities could see that they needed so much more. In our pre-pandemic work in schools, we often scaffolded our programs with other wraparound supports like food, transportation assistance and take-home activities. With the onset of the pandemic, it became clear that we needed to move more quickly, effectively and responsively into this broader space to meet a growing need. We had to broaden our scope and help with vaccinations, utilities, and rent, too as all of these needs intersected and had a direct impact on youth.

Beginning last spring, we redirected our giving directly into spaces where we could make the greatest impact as the health crisis unfolded. Here are a few of the ways we pivoted philanthropically to support youth, families and educators during the COVID-19 outbreak.

  • Assisted local school districts with wifi hotspots and tech support as they transitioned to online-only learning.
  • We gave directly to local BIPOC-led organizations and newly established COVID-19 community response funds.
  • Supplied grocery gift cards directly to families in need through family support workers at local elementary and high schools.
  • Facilitated a take-home book program for students with individual education plans (IEPs) and learned new lessons about equity in a pandemic.
  • We enhanced our connection with organizations serving homeless youth and families by meeting needs for both basic supplies as well as academic support materials.
  • We connected with Third Place Books, Math n’ Stuff and The Toy Place to support local businesses while providing materials to youth-centered organizations.
  • As the YMCA quickly pivoted to serve the childcare needs of essential workers, we provided custom curricula and supplied individual activity kits for students. We learned to be thoughtful and choose materials that could be easily sanitized before reuse.

By affording ourselves flexibility early and often, we haven’t had to dramatically change our philanthropic approach as the pandemic endures, but rather make small adjustments to continue providing relevant direct value to youth.

On the Other Side of the Pandemic Wall

Now that we approach the one year mark, we’ve identified a need to broaden our philanthropic work even further to serve the family systems and wraparound support that anchors youth into their community. Recognizing the urgency of growing need, we rapidly restructured to distribute financial support as quickly as possible.

Foundry10 designated a substantial amount of funding for direct giving to communities hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic. A pivot from our typical philanthropic operations through educational pathways, we assembled a small team to lead outreach and facilitate logistics.

The outreach team primarily contacted school-based family advocates, social service agencies, medical facilities, BIPOC-led and serving nonprofits, and mutual aid networks, but stayed open to other avenues of direct giving.

By keeping barriers to aid low, trusting our team, and making new community connections, we’ve been able to spread our resources widely and support thousands of families in Washington state whose struggles have intensified as the pandemic continues on. Here is how we’ve responded to community needs:

While the escalating vaccine distribution brings a sense of an ending to the pandemic, we’re not out of the woods yet. In good times and bad, foundry10 hopes to continue expanding the way people think about learning and creating direct value for youth through educational pathways for years to come.

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