Helping Nonprofits Help: The Community Crisis Fund Is Making Sure the Good Work Continues

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic can be felt throughout Central Alabama, including the offices of countless nonprofit organizations. Although they serve different purposes in our community, all nonprofits are facing hardship as resources diminish and needs increase. But it is during times such as these — times of uncertainty, anxiety and stress – that the services provided by many of these groups are needed the most.

To help Central Alabama’s nonprofits through this tough time, United Way of Central Alabama (UWCA) has launched the Community Crisis Fund, a donor-supported fund with plans to distribute grants on a monthly basis. To date, 69 grants, totaling more than $330,000 , were awarded to area nonprofits. The fund is split into two different categories to accommodate the unique needs faced by different organizations: the Human Needs Assistance Fund, which supports nonprofits’ abilities to meet basic human needs during a crisis, and the Nonprofit Sustainability Fund, which helps cover these agencies’ internal expenses. The organizations can apply for Community Crisis Fund grants, which are awarded by UWCA based on evaluations and recommendations of a team of objective volunteers.

“The Nonprofit Sustainability Fund is designed to help the agencies that are struggling due to Coronavirus,” said Randy Betsch, UWCA’s Vice President of Community Impact, Agency Relations and Allocations. “We can help with payroll or utilities or help with staffing needs…it’s designed to help the agency itself.”

The Human Needs Assistance Fund, on the other hand, goes toward the vital work the agencies do for members of the community. “The first group of recipients consisted of a lot of small churches, as well as a lot of food pantries,” said Betsch. “Most of them are pretty small agencies, out there really working in the trenches, and we want to support them.”

One recent grant recipient is Pathways, a longtime UWCA partner agency that provides shelter for women and children experiencing homelessness. Like many organizations in Central Alabama, its operations have been significantly impacted by the pandemic.

“We were in transition with two employees,” said Trevor O’Brien, Development Director at Pathways. “Our dietary manager was moving to a new role as the overnight staff person, and we had already hired a new employee to take over her old role. That hire was made right before everything started changing.”

When the COVID-19 crisis hit, Pathways delayed the original dietary manager’s transition to her new role. The new hire, however, had already submitted her two-week notice at her former position, putting Pathways in an awkward position.

“We didn’t want to furlough this employee before she even started,” said O’Brien. “So we applied to the Nonprofit Sustainability Fund and are now able to pay both employees’ salaries for two months.”

To O’Brien, support for UWCA’s Community Crisis Fund is proof of Central Alabama’s commitment to its nonprofits. “We’ve seen a really positive response from the community, especially from foundations and bigger organizations within the community like United Way of Central Alabama,” he said. “That’s definitely helped us, and we greatly appreciate it.”

To support the critical work of area nonprofits, you can donate to the United Way of Central Alabama Community Crisis Fund. You can also visit our COVID-19 Response and Resources page for all the latest information on how UWCA is supporting our community through this trying time. Nonprofits can learn more about the grant process, as well as other important information regarding their work, at our Nonprofit Resources page.