As the COVID-19 crisis progresses, we continue to hear inspiring stories about community mobilization, emergency responses, and community foundations creating innovative solutions.

Across Canada, community foundations have confronted the pandemic with a willingness to provide help and support for those in need. This crisis has shown us the power of an engaged community, and the diverse emergency responses from community foundations have proved the importance of grassroots initiatives in local regions and municipalities.

The following is part of an ongoing series that spotlights the emergency response efforts of local community foundations across Canada. In addition to these features, we have also compiled a map sharing the mobilization efforts from community foundations across the country. 

When you look at the fundraising page for South Saskatchewan Community Foundation’s Emergency Response Fund for Community Needs, you see a very generous community response. At the time of writing, the foundation has raised nearly one million dollars. This impressive fundraising is credited to a creative approach that involves a dollar-matching campaign, a “super-connector” who helped raise $100,000, and a mission to ensure that no one is left behind in the 480 communities it serves. 

The foundation was able to provide $500,000 in matched funds thanks to a generous legacy gift. One of the community foundation’s founding members provided a posthumous gift to the foundation as discretionary funding. For Donna Ziegler, Executive Director, this underscores the importance of legacy giving, and more specifically, legacy giving that is unrestricted. 

“We had opportunities to be flexible, responsive and double the impact into the community,” said Ziegler.

Ziegler also emphasizes that community connections and care have been key to building the fund. Two donors each provided $50,000 for the initial seed funding, and a “major connector” in the community heard about the fund from Ziegler and took it upon themselves to personally reach out to over 30 people in their own network, raising around $100,000. Some of these donors had never heard of the community foundation, but put their trust in the original connector and donated to the fund. Other businesses stepped up too—Gore Mutual Fund has provided an additional matching funding, ensuring the impact of donations are tripled; and a local Sobey’s manager is matching groceries purchased by North Central Family Centre, using a grant from the community foundation. 

Finally, the community foundation is taking on the challenge of identifying and addressing needs in all communities it serves—all 480 of them! It received applications from across all southern Saskatchewan, and made a conscious decision to ensure a portion of funds went to rural locations. It is also looking at where the gaps are. For instance, it learned which shelters are not recipients of federal funding and allocated a portion of funds to go to those other shelters to meet the immediate shelter needs. 

At the time of writing, the foundation is on the cusp of announcing a million dollars flowing back into communities. Ziegler will continue to connect with donors knowing that the need is greater than what has been provided to date, and she’ll continue to emphasize the opportunities of legacy funding.