Heather Larkin, CEO of the Arkansas Community Foundation, said her group sprung into action quickly when it was obvious the COVID-19 pandemic was headed to Arkansas.
As a statewide grant-making foundation that works with nonprofits that touch all 75 counties across the state, she said the pivot to help from normal business missions to one of emergency response was easy to predict.
“The Community Foundation generally does not work in disaster relief. Unfortunately, the community foundation does have a little experience with that in Arkansas,” she said, citing recent disasters of the past few years including flooding, tornadoes and oil spills.
During mid-March, ACF was establishing its Phase 1 relief fund. The foundation moved $130,000 into the account, began raising money, and with days was doling money to nonprofits disrupted by the coronavirus.
“Nonprofits were using them from everything from, purchasing PPE to purchasing food for food pantries, to creating information pieces in Spanish to get out the word to our non English speaking communities. There were just all sorts of uses that nonprofits were trying to adapt very quickly,” Larkin said in an interview on this week’s edition of Talk Business & Politics.
At the end of May and first of June, ACF began distributing funds from its Phase 2 relief. Those grants range from $5,000 to $25,000. Larkin said the due diligence on that funding requires more information. Around 120 grants totaling $1.9 million will be spent when this second phase is completed.
“Those uses range anywhere from economic development, again working with children and education, food and PPE, and all types of things,” she said.
Larkin said conversations are underway for Phase 3 and Phase 4 grants. She said ACF will do all it can, but she’s not sure it will be able to keep up with the demand that is out there for help.
“We received, just the other day, $6 million in requests. So the need is great and there is no way that we can respond to all of those, but we do have a little money left in the COVID Fund and of course people can continue to give and many continues to come in,” she said. “We are trying to develop a Phase 3. We don’t know exactly what that will look like. We think there may even be a Phase 4 as we move through the pandemic. So we are at work on that, we are surveying our nonprofits in the next week or two to try to get some more feedback on what their needs are and how we might move into Phase 3.”
You can watch Larkin’s full interview in the video below.