On March 17, 2020, funders who invest in Arkansas virtually came together for the first of numerous COVID-19 emergency-response meetings. Participants discussed their individual foundation actions and explored how philanthropic leaders could, together, have a larger impact through strategic investments for Arkansans. The goals that emerged were simple — communicate with one another to identify areas of need and co-investment, commit to elevating and working to fill gaps in need, bring innovations from other states to Arkansas, and champion systemic policy change that embraces equity.

With the rapidly changing public health situation and fluctuating directives from the state and federal governments, funders mobilized quickly to frame a plan for action. The group agreed to move forward with action at three distinct levels — relief (short-term), recovery (mid-term), and rebuild (long-term).

Relief-related action concentrated on providing:

  • Small business assistance
  • Nonprofit assistance
  • Support to increase access to broadband Internet

AIP members also quickly took action to increase flexibility for existing grantees and provide rapid funding for organizations and communities to respond to emergencies. AIP members have made an investment of $15.9 million in grant support to organizations in Arkansas.

In our commitment to recovery, AIP members are supporting 1) individuals, 2) businesses, and 3) community infrastructure. AIP members’ commitment to recovery has and will continue to emphasize grantee flexibility, including general operating support as well as increased urgency to disperse grant funds. Funders are also working to increase social service connections, help individuals and nonprofits apply for assistance, and elevate the importance of a complete count of all Arkansans in the 2020 U.S. Census as the census has a direct impact on how federal funding will be distributed back to Arkansas communities over the next decade.

As we work to rebuild in the future, we know longer-term action must include a focus on systems and policy change. With the strength of HOPE Policy Institute’s and Southern Bancorp Community Partner’s policy teams, grantmakers crafted a policy agenda spanning all three phases of COVID-19 — relief, recovery, and rebuild. The Family Financial Stability Policy agenda highlights specific areas of need and underscores how philanthropic leaders can lend their voices to promoting the agenda. The Women’s Foundation of Arkansas and the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation leveraged the policy agenda to inform their direct conversations with Arkansas congressional offices.

We look forward to continuing to build a strong philanthropic sector that collaborates to create a more prosperous Arkansas for all Arkansans.