Packard Foundation Commits $5 Million and Flexible Grantmaking Approach to Fighting the Coronavirus

The past several weeks have been unprecedented, as the world has reeled in the face of COVID-19. Families, communities, and entire countries are facing complex challenges every day—some are shifting routines and juggling home schooling and careers, while others are folding up life-long businesses, and still others are losing loved ones to the disease.

It is because of these unprecedented times that we must respond with unprecedented action. Many are stepping up—from government leaders setting policies that keep us safe, to organizations like food banks that are serving communities, to scientists working around the clock to develop a vaccine. Every day, people are sending off family members who are sacrificing their own safety to work in hospitals, grocery stores, restaurants, and police stations to keep the rest of us healthy and safe.

With so many sacrificing so much, it is obvious that philanthropy, too, has a duty to step up in times of crisis to support our grantee partner organizations and the communities in which we live and work. As a sector, we are uniquely positioned to take the long view, and to make immediate investments that will lead to lasting change. We are striving to fill gaps in government and other private action, and fund areas where we have experience and can add the most value.

At the Packard Foundation, our founding values demand we act, and that we move quickly. This is why we are changing how we do business, and we are making new investments. First, we are doing our best to support grantee partners and accommodate their shifting and unique needs as they navigate the needs of the communities they serve. As I shared a few weeks ago in a post on our website, we are also adjusting our grantmaking processes to be as flexible as possible as we learn more about how COVID-19 is impacting our grantee partners’ operations. Further, we are committed to leave intact the Foundation’s approved 2020 program grantmaking budgets even after the financial downturn of these past few months. We have long planned for economic uncertainty and have fiscal policies in place to address these developments.

Second, we are making new investments. In addition to the ongoing support of our grantee partners, our Board of Trustees approved $5 million to specifically address COVID-19 across four areas:

1. We are committed to ensuring our local region, where our headquarters are located and most of our employees live, receives critical support for those who need it most. We are making $1.4 million in grants to 19 local area organizations that are serving people without homes or who are unemployed, uninsured, or living with low incomes. Some of these organizations include the Community Food Bank for San Benito County, LifeMoves, Samaritan HouseCatholic Charities of Santa Clara County, and Community Homeless Solutions. In addition, we are supporting community relief funds, which can align regional giving and have broad outreach to communities.

2. As COVID-19 impacts unfold across the world, we are providing $1.35 million to support urgent public health responses both domestically and globally, including in two regions where we have many grantee partners. In the U.S., we are funding the CDC Foundation in its work to support gaps in government funding and action, such as covering the costs of isolation and quarantine for individuals and families, the development of technology and disease surveillance tools, and culturally appropriate communications.

In Ethiopia, where for over 20 years we have supported organizations and leaders seeking to ensure quality reproductive health access, we are supporting the Ethiopian Public Health Association to support their national preparedness and response plan. With this investment, we hope to reduce the disproportionate impact the pandemic will have on women and girls. We are also supporting global COVID-19 response strategies that place a special focus on women and girls.

Globally, we are providing funds to CARE’s COVID-19 Response Fund to increase access to water, sanitation, health and reproductive health services, support risk communication, and promote preventive practices as well as support livelihoods and education in more than 50 countries world-wide.

3. We are providing $1.25 million for research and data about how many people are infected, how the virus spreads, and its impact on people and communities beyond the direct medical impacts. Oregon State University researchers will gather data through rapid, near-real-time population monitoring of the virus SARS-CoV-2, providing a deep dive into a single community to provide information on the nature of the spread of COVID-19 that can inform public health policies. The Data Foundation will lead a national survey of physical health, mental health, and economic impacts related to COVID-19 that allows researchers and policymakers to better understand and effectively respond to the big picture of the outbreak and its impacts.

4. We are also augmenting the Foundation’s ongoing efforts by $1 million to support a national paid family leave policy, an essential benefit every adult needs to care for themselves or a loved one. The COVID-19 crisis is shining a light on the inequities that have resulted from the lack of a comprehensive national family leave policy, and the disproportionate impacts on families with low income.

Everyone is pressed and challenged in different ways during this unprecedented time and we are all still learning as new information emerges. Within philanthropy, we must each examine what we can do to support our grantee partners, to address the needs and goals of the communities in which we live and work, and to use our voices and dollars to take big near-term actions that will help keep everyone safer and healthier in the long-term.

As we move through these uncertain times, we recognize that there is much work to do in the weeks and months ahead, and we are profoundly thankful to be in in partnership with all of you. Again, please continue to connect with our program staff or send your suggestions to me about how we can best support you by emailing me at We are committed to open, honest conversations about the challenges that you may be facing and will continue to share timely updates about our work together.