The COVID-19 pandemic threatens the well-being of us all, but low-income and marginalized people in our region face especially complex challenges.

To meet these needs, the Princeton Area Community Foundation created the COVID-19 Relief & Recovery Fund in March 2020. To date, over $2.4 million has been raised for the Fund. An additional $900,000 has been leveraged from donor advised funds to support nonprofits addressing COVID-19. It has been humbling and inspiring to see such an outpouring of generosity.

The Community Foundation knew it was necessary to get funds out quickly to nonprofits that could put them to good use. Within days, it recruited a team of staff and volunteer leaders to launch a new rapid-response grants program. Now the first COVID-19 Fund grantees are making a positive impact throughout the region, addressing hunger, providing social services, rental assistance, mental health counseling, and homelessness support to thousands of low-income children, adults, seniors and families.

By reflecting on experiences during the first phase of grantmaking, we sought to understand:

  • What role does regional philanthropy have to play at a time like this?
  • What does it take to launch a rapid-response grants program?
  • How can we balance and meet the needs of nonprofits, donors, grant reviewers and community members?
  • How can we maximize the impact of gifts made to the COVID-19 Relief and Recovery Fund?
  • How do we prepare for the next phase of a crisis that none of us have ever experienced before?


This post was developed by Ann Ritter, consultant to The Burke Foundation. It is based on a series of interviews conducted with leaders involved in the creation and launch of the COVID-19 Relief and Recovery Fund.