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. 

In response to COVID-19, the Victoria Foundation has launched the Rapid Relief Fund for the Greater Victoria Area, a fund that provides immediate support to the community. Both in its origins and its mechanism, the Rapid Relief Fund is a unique offering for the community. 

In the early days of the pandemic, the Times Colonist, Victoria’s daily paper and a longstanding collaborator of the Victoria Foundation, wanted to do something to give back to the community in anticipation of mounting social and economic challenges. The publication approached the community foundation and the idea of a fund was born. Shortly after, the Times brought in the Jawl family, well known developers in the region, and the fund had its first major donor. 

The fund launched Saturday, March 21st with the goal of raising $1 million in one week. Instead, $1 million was raised within 48 hours and more donations kept coming. 

The community foundation has continued to fundraise for the Rapid Relief fund. Once another million has been reached, the community foundation adds on another million to attract more donations. Matching funding has been a key component of success. For example, the Kirzinger Family provided matching funding up to $200,000 until April 5th, and Surinder Kumar, retired Chief Executive Officer of Vecima Networks, donated $50,000 on behalf of his family.

At the time of writing, almost $4 million has been raised, with a significant amount already out the door to local charities to serve the community. The money is going towards access to food, childcare, healthcare and serving the homeless population. Community advisors from all over the Greater Victoria Area are providing guidance to distribute the funds. 

The fund has received an incredible response, and according to the observations of Kyle Wells, Communications Specialist at the Victoria Foundation, this has been because everyone has been prepared to step up—whether they have a lot or a little. Many donations have been under $100 from individuals who read about the campaign in the Times Colonist and in other local media that have been promoting the relief fund. 

“I have much admiration for your foundation and for the people that keep our city safe and still running… The medical staff are unbelievable. I am a senior [86], but I wanted to help a little,” said one contributor, whose message was shared in The Time Colonist among other contributor stories.

As this message suggests, at times like these, community foundations like the Victoria Foundation are serving as trusted, local partners to get funds out quickly to the people who need them most. The Victoria Foundation continues to raise funds through their Rapid Relief Fund and provide support to organizations and charities across the community.