Hartford Poet Laureate Frederick-Douglass Knowles II reads from his poem "Journal Entry 187," inspired by the events of 2020.


This past year, a virus tested the mettle of our community.

Could we mobilize resources in time? Could we protect vulnerable populations during a global pandemic? Could we keep hope alive?

Our Annual Report is a look back at a year unlike any other — when unity and change became the spirit of our community.

A Letter to Our Community from our President and Board Chair

Photo courtesy of CT Mirror

The pandemic exposed and exacerbated disparities in our region.

  • In 2020, twice as many Connecticut Latinx residents as white residents reported at least one adult in their household lost their job.1
  • Nearly twice as many Black residents as white residents surveyed in Connecticut indicated that they have lost a loved one or friend to the Coronavirus.1
  • 55% of Black residents in Connecticut reported they are just getting by or finding it difficult to get by, compared to 24% of all residents.1
  • Between February and April of 2020, the number of small business owners declined sharply nationwide. People of color were disproportionately impacted. Black business owners declined by 41%, Latinx business owners 32%, Asian business owners 26%, and white business owners 17%.2

We created the COVID-19 Response Fund to assist those residents most impacted by the pandemic.

In March 2020, the Hartford Foundation quickly changed course and made assisting with the pandemic our #1 priority. We launched the COVID-19 Response Fund to support nonprofits as they met the most urgent needs of the community, and gave nonprofits the ability to repurpose payments from exisiting grants to meet immediate needs brought on by the virus. Over time, the Fund evolved to support a wide variety of reopening costs so that nonprofits could operate safely.

In 2021, the COVID-19 Response Fund will focus on proactive investments such as vaccine outreach and distribution, and reducing inequities due to lost learning.

Learn more about the COVID-19 Response Fund

We connected, convened and mobilized resources to meet urgent needs.

Three years ago, we vowed to become a more nimble and flexible organization. In 2020, we leaned into those attributes to act decisively and meet the imminent needs of a region.

We joined forces to help stabilize Hartford's small businesses.

In partnership with the City of Hartford, Capital For Change, and HEDCO, we launched the Hartford Small Business Emergency Assistance Micro-Grant Program, specifically targeted toward businesses owned by people of color and/or women. Learn more.

We worked with partners to support equal access to education.

We partnered with the City of Hartford to develop five COVID-19 compliant childcare hubs, serving 330 students. Learn more.

We also partnered with LEGO and First Book to provide more than 3,000 Greater Hartford students with new Chromebooks. Learn more.

Photo courtesy of Community Renewal Team

We helped establish the 4-CT Statewide COVID Relief Fund.

The Foundation administered this donor-advised fund, founded by Connecticut-based philanthropists in the early days of the pandemic. 4-CT is now a self-sustaining nonprofit organization that continues to provide assistance to Connecticut residents in emergency situations not limited to COVID-19.

There was an increase in demand for assistance in our community. We realigned our priorities in order to respond.

Free citywide Wi-Fi network

The pandemic highlighted the digital divide and the importance of internet access for educational and economic equity. We joined with the Dalio Foundation and the City of Hartford to build a free, citywide Wi-Fi network.

Photo courtesy of Buckley Elementary School, Manchester CT

Improving Community College completion for Black and Latinx students

COVID-19 exacerbated many hurdles faced by students, especially low-income Black and Latinx students. A series of grants will help improve persistence and completion rates.

Photo courtesy of Connecticut Students for a Dream

Reducing barriers to employment

With an economic downturn and early school closures impacting engagement and making opportunities scarce, we awarded grants to Capital Workforce Partners to connect at risk youth and adults with employment barriers to jobs.

Photo courtesy of Capital Workforce Partners

Supporting Small business growth

With local businesses struggling, we helped bring a redesigned Initiative for a Competitive Inner City program back to Hartford.

Supporting organization and education on housing

We awarded grants to engage, educate and organize residents on issues of housing segregation and pathways to more inclusive development.

Photo courtesy of Hartford Courant

Training to improve youth and police relations

In June, we partnered with the Travelers Championship to launch the Connecticut Institute for Youth and Police Relations.

Photo courtesy of Connecticut Institute for Youth-Police Relations

Photo courtesy CT Mirror

We made a commitment to help dismantle structural racism.

While the country was gripped by constant media updates on the evolving COVID-19 outbreak, a second pandemic that has been percolating in our country for generations became undeniably evident. On May 25, the murder of George Floyd awakened our national consciousness. The call to dismantle racist systems moved to the foreground as people took to the streets in droves—in the midst of a global pandemic— to demand individual and structural accountability in the fight for racial justice.

In Greater Hartford and across the country, Black, Latinx and other communities of color face persistent disparities, which create barriers to health, well-being and wealth building. We must take significant steps to dismantle structural racism and achieve equity in social and economic mobility in Greater Hartford's Black and Latinx communities.

Our Commitment: Dismantling Structural Racism

To support this commitment, we refined our outcome areas.

Using research, data and community input, we identified five outcome areas for our work. Each outcome areas focuses on the people and places facing the greatest disparities, and contributes to our overall effort to dismantle structural racism.

  • Higher Opportunity Neighborhoods
  • Employment Opportunities
  • Basic Human Needs
  • Arts and Culture
  • Civic and Resident Engagement

Photo courtesy of The Prosperity Foundation

We made grants to empower Black- and Latinx-led organizations.

  • $1 million to The Prosperity Foundation, a Black-led philanthropic organization
  • $1 million to The Hispanic Federation – Connecticut, a Latinx-led organization
  • $250,000 to the Black Giving Circle Fund
  • $250,000 to the Latino Endowment Fund

These investments are intended to give Black and Latinx communities agency and power to determine where resources should be spent. Read more.

Through civic and resident engagement, we aim to return power to the community.

No one understands our community better than the residents who live here. By supporting community voice and giving residents opportunities to create positive change, our processes become more inclusive and we end up with better outcomes.

Artists of Color Unite!

The Foundation convened an advisory group to lift up and influence resource allocation for artists of color in our region.

Greater Together Community Funds

After more than a year of community engagement, despite a pandemic, residents of several towns in our region made their first grants.

Get Out the Vote / Get Out the Count 

The U.S. Census and a presidential election made 2020 a crucial year for engaging residents, particularly those in underserved communities.

Photo courtesy of CT Mirror

Our carefully managed finances allow us to make these investments in our region.

Read about all of our New Funds launched in 2020.

The Foundation's spending policy and investment strategy provide the financial stability required to support the community at record levels even during a financial downturn like we saw in 2020. Learn more about our Financial Strength.

To create lasting change, we must take Action.

2020 made one truth clear: While dismantling structural racism requires a long-term commitment, the time to act is now.

We created The Action Fund for Racial Justice to disrupt existing systemic racism and achieve equity in social and economic mobility in Greater Hartford.

Learn more about the Action Fund and donate

A year we'll never forget.

2020 brought challenges unlike we've ever seen, but it also showed the strength and resiliency of our community.

We believe that our Foundation will emerge from this confluence of crises a more impactful organization. We aim to lead and inspire our donors and stakeholders in new ways, while being inspired by our community and empowering residents to be leaders.

Nothing we do is possible without our generous donors, our hardworking nonprofit partners and all of the other stakeholders who make Greater Hartford an amazing place to live. To all of you, we extend our deepest thanks.

Now the question remains:

Can we rebuild our community better than it was before?

Join us as we work to dismantle systemic racism and build inclusive opportunity for all residents of our region.

Photo courtesy of Hartford Courant

Photo courtesy of CT Mirror

This is the digital version of our Annual Report 2020. Download a PDF of the full Annual Report here.


  • DataHaven Community Wellbeing Survey, September 2020
  • Double Jeopardy: COVID-19's Concentrated Health and Welth Effects in Black Communities. Federal Reserve Bank of New York, August 2020. 
  • *Does not include grants from agency endowments

Photo credits:

  • Individual photo credits above
  • At-a-Glance graphic photo by Maza Rey Photography
  • All other photos by Defining Studios