The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare and worsened the Bay Area’s racial and economic disparities. There is a tremendous amount of work to do to make sure that people in communities that have historically been excluded from adequate resources and care — such as people working low-wage jobs, Black and Indigenous people, people who have immigrated to the US, and undocumented people — have the resources they need to stay safe and healthy.
Below you will see how the foundation responded to meet immediate needs surfaced by the pandemic as well as how we are approaching a just and equitable recovery.
Immediate Response: Relief and Recovery
San Francisco Foundation was at the leading edge in responding to COVID-19. We mobilized our grantmaking, fundraising, and relationships to support the Bay Area in the following ways (click to expand sections):
SFF COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund
Just two days after the Bay Area issued its shelter-in-place orders, we launched our SFF COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund to support nonprofits working on housing, food security, job loss, and supporting people targeted by racism as a result of the pandemic. Our donors and philanthropic partners generously contributed more than $4 million to the fund which supported grants to more than 375 Bay Area community organizations. For more about the fund’s impact on our communities and grantees, read our COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund Report.
San Francisco Foundation worked with trusted partners and community organizations to help Bay Area nonprofits adapt and strengthen their financial management, operations, and program strategies. Early in the pandemic, we offered organizational crisis response webinars and helped our partners on how to navigate federal resources, hold virtual fundraising, and manage the transition to remote work. We made these resources available to our grantees and all Bay Area nonprofits.
Focus on Immediate Housing
In response to COVID-19, we have increased our focus on unhoused communities, tenant protections, and homelessness prevention. Here are some of our key activities:
- Direct Support: We worked with our donors to create a Keep Oakland Housed emergency fund to support rental assistance and to address the pandemic-related housing crisis in Oakland;
- Philanthropic Voice: We collaborated with philanthropic and community partners to weigh in on key housing affordable policy issues affecting those most impacted by the pandemic (e.g., eviction moratoriums), and
- Sign-on Letters: We signed a number of housing-related letters to policymakers including the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors to Pass Eviction Moratoria (March 2020) and to Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Affordable Housing Priorities in the Federal Stimulus Package (April 2020).
Looking Ahead: Reimagine and Rebuild
We are committed to a just economic recovery that centers the leadership and vision of the people most impacted by the pandemic’s health and economic crises. Faced with a public health crisis, severe economic downturn, and ongoing state-sanctioned violence and discrimination, we are guided by the following “3R” principles:
- Recover: We support a just economic recovery in service to racial and economic equity.
- Reimagine: We take this opportunity to reimagine systems and institutions that are equitable, just, and created in solidarity with the community.
- Rebuild: We bring our radical imagination for a racially just world to the work of rebuilding systems and institutions.
With these principles, we are crystalizing how we prioritize and approach our equity work. This is not a new body of work; it is a continuation and deepening of our existing equity work. Read more about our Equity Agenda we launched in 2016.
Our vision for an equitable recovery
Our vision is focused on the months and years ahead, while we continue to partner with our grantees, donors, and other funders to address immediate and emerging needs in the Bay Area. We are not alone. According to a nine-county survey commissioned by our Bay Area Leads Fund, Bay Area residents overwhelmingly agree that COVID recovery plans should prioritize under-invested communities. The survey also highlights that economic recovery, vaccination, and homelessness are top issues to address on the road to the Bay Area’s recovery.
Supporting a regional vision for recovery
With governmental, philanthropic, and community partners, we convened three Regional Recovery Actions Groups to support a regional recovery effort to help align and prioritize how we recover from the pandemic:
- Building a better economy (e.g., Supporting small businesses, access to quality jobs);
- Ensuring affordable housing (e.g., Rent and mortgage relief, tenant protections); and
- Supporting under-invested communities (e.g., Guaranteed Income, Universal Childcare, Bridging the Digital Divide).
Funding Black-led organizations
On October 19, 2021, we announced $3.4 million in grants to black-led organizations to respond to the needs of Black-led nonprofit organizations in the Bay Area. The initiative is aimed at strengthening the region’s ecosystem of Black community organizers in the wake of a pandemic that has exposed deep systemic inequities in the Bay Area and across the country.
In addition to the direct services and advocacy of our direct grantees, SFF supported our region by coordinating advocacy through a Regional Recovery Action Group to extend the eviction moratorium to September 30, 2021. We also helped create the 8 Essential Actions Guide and hosted a funders forum outlining philanthropic needs.