Hartford Foundation's 2020 Grantmaking Outlook

In mid-March, when the pandemic altered our lives in Greater Hartford and across the country, the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving quickly pivoted. We had designated June 1 as a milestone for when we would assess our activities and the impact of the crisis on our region. We write today to share our thinking about our grantmaking and other activities for the second half of the year.

We have been astounded by the generosity of the hundreds of donors who have contributed an additional $3.5 million to our 2020 grantmaking budget through to the COVID-19 Response Fund.  We also witnessed the commitment and tenacity of the region’s nonprofits and local (neighborhood) leaders that are providing basic human needs and other critical services to residents most impacted by COVID-19. Still, the number of worthy requests for financial support from the Foundation far exceed our available resources, and we know that for some organizations the impact of the pandemic will be irreversible.

As we approach the next phase of the pandemic, we will reinvigorate our grantmaking filtered through dual lenses: COVID-19 and our established strategic priorities. We are reflecting on what we are learning from our partners, grantees and their new ways of working. The events of the past weeks also serve as painful reminders of the inequities and disparities that remain so prevalent in our country. Although these most recent tragedies did not occur in our immediate backyard, the same underlying issues surround us. Our new strategic framework centers greater racial/ethnic, geographic and economic inclusion. We see our priorities and the pandemic as unprecedented opportunities to reimagine and rebuild a more equitable region and Connecticut. 

Looking forward:

  • Our 2020 grantmaking will respond to an expanded definition of Basic Human Needs to include COVID-related health and safety (i.e., testing and PPE) and food security activities that reach residents in their neighborhoods as well as the digital divide that limits access to critical education and wellbeing services.
  • Our strategic plan had focused on housing and employment opportunities; we will continue toward these outcomes, centering our attention on eviction prevention and how efforts must pivot given the surge in unemployment and evolving social distancing restrictions.
  • While the aggregate resources devoted to arts and culture may be less than in other areas, we remain committed to supporting the vital contributions that artists and arts and cultural organizations provide to the region’s quality of life and economy.
  • Furthermore, we will continue our commitments to youth employment and internship programs, our highest need school districts, Hartford neighborhood family centers, and the Hartford Community Safety Coalition. 

The return to our strategic grantmaking priorities allows us to narrow the focus of our COVID-19 Response Fund, but open opportunities to a broader range of nonprofits. Within the next few weeks, we will evolve the Fund to allow for one-time grants to an array of organizations to enhance their readiness to reopen and stabilize. We will retain the current COVID-19 Response Fund criteria and application process for a minimum of four weeks, and share more details about our grantmaking for the remainder of the year in the near future. Much of this thinking will continue to be shaped by our partners and neighbors across Greater Hartford. We stand ready with a renewed sense of urgency to build the capacity for community resilience that will help all residents navigate future challenges. As always, we welcome a conversation about our work and how, together, we can emerge from this time a stronger, thriving region for all.