Nonprofits Use Tech Upgrades to Support Community

 2020 capacity-building grants from Fund for Louisville make big difference during COVID-19

The Lincoln Foundation has been helping under-resourced Louisville youth overcome barriers to achievement through academic enrichment and college readiness programs for over a century. This life-changing work might have come to a screeching halt during the pandemic, had the organization not been prepared with the necessary technology.

The Lincoln Foundation was one of 24 organizations that received a Fund for Louisville grant in January 2020 — just two months before COVID-19 turned the world on its head. Nonprofits suddenly faced multiple demands, including social distancing, remote work, declining contributions, and an increase in need for their services.

With their grant, the Lincoln Foundation purchased new laptops for staff, along with software that made remote work and video meetings possible.

This technology was a “hidden blessing,” according to Director of Development Paula Campbell, making it possible to deliver programs virtually during the pandemic. This experience inspired the Lincoln Foundation to prioritize additional investments in their operations in their next strategic plan.

Nonprofits use capacity-building grants to invest in themselves — advancing consultant-led strategic plans and feasibility studies, sending leaders and staff for training opportunities, or upgrading technology. More than half of last year’s Fund for Louisville awardees used their grant to purchase some kind of technology.

Given the pandemic forced a shift to remote work and virtual services, the technology-focused grants were perfectly timed — and these investments continue to strengthen operations each day.

These Nonprofits Never Faltered

That’s certainly true for the  Metropolitan Housing Coalition (MHC), which is committed to securing fair, accessible and affordable housing for everyone in Louisville. Given the overwhelming and ongoing need for affordable housing, they couldn’t slow down during the pandemic. And they never had to thanks to their Fund for Louisville grant.

Before their offices shut down due to COVID-19, MHC used their $20,000 grant to buy new laptops and a cloud-based memory system that made it possible to work and share files remotely. The grant also supported a significant website update that makes housing data and advocacy resources more accessible.

Then there’s the nonprofit Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of the River Region, who pairs trained volunteer advocates to be the voice for abused and neglected children so they can thrive in safe and permanent homes. While most of their grant supported strategy development, one objective was to adopt social and mobile technologies geared toward volunteers and supporters.

Before the pandemic, group volunteer trainings were held in person over the course of five weeks. CASA used part of their grant to purchase Lessonly, a learning management system that allows for virtual training across six counties. The individualized nature of the new training system helps ensure volunteers are a good fit and decreases turnover. And it’s working: They are now seeing volunteer retention of over 80%, while other CASA counterparts have seen a decline.  Even during COVID, CASA has had over 200 volunteers advocating for over 500 vulnerable children — the heart of their mission.

All of these grants were made possible by the Fund for Louisville, which was created and is still supported by those who seek to strengthen our community today and for future generations.  With additional and sustained support from James Graham Brown Foundation and the Lift a Life Novak Family Foundation, the Fund made 148 capacity-building grants to Louisville nonprofits totaling more than $2.5 million from 2014-2020.

Fund for Louisville’s Strategy for 2021-2023: Racial Justice Cohort

While these capacity-building grants continue to have a lasting impact, the Fund for Louisville is transitioning to a new strategy: a three-year commitment to fund Black-led social change organizations.

Established policies, procedures, laws, and systems — intentionally and unintentionally — make it difficult for Black people to live healthy lives, build wealth, fully participate in the democratic process, and excel to their fullest potential.

Recent data highlighted by the Greater Louisville Project shows longstanding and growing gaps in outcomes for Black Louisvillians. The challenges of 2020 further exposed and amplified these racial inequities.

The Fund for Louisville allows the Community Foundation of Louisville to make strategic, meaningful investments in the place we call home — now and in the future. To learn more about how the Fund for Louisville is advancing Black-led social change, visit our website.