An Island Paradise Confronts a Pandemic

Many times, the test results for Bermuda showed no new cases of COVID-19. None. On the entire island. Just under 700 total cases since the outbreak, and 12 deaths. By early February, about ten thousand residents had been vaccinated.

And help was in place because of the foresight of the philanthropic leadership. The Bermuda Community Foundation for those who want to invest in their community was only established in early 2013, a fortuitous vision. The organization was a prime factor in the island being able to respond to COVID-19 in a way that supported the sector and Bermuda’s people overall.

Bermuda has a nonprofit sector of about 600 registered and non-registered charitable agencies. A substantial obstacle to nonprofits is a shortage of funding. Individuals are the largest source of charitable giving; however, fifty-six percent of households donate less than $500 a year to nonprofits, according to the latest available research. In the corporate sector, 56 percent of business donors contribute less than $50,000 annually. Donors identified housing, crime, drugs and education as Bermuda’s top priorities but with the funding being so fragmented, the full impact of those dollars is not realized.

To tackle the growing funding challenges, increasing social needs and the need for far better administration, evaluation and information on nonprofit sector impact, groups of donors, charity and nonprofit representatives began to seek solutions, which included access to significant untapped philanthropic dollars, pooling of funds to have greater impact and reduction in philanthropic administrative costs.

With the arrival of the virus at a time when not-for-profit organizations and donors are more stretched than ever, Bermuda had an unprecedented opportunity to build a sustainable source of support for its civic sector. Bermuda Community Foundation is the first of its kind to mobilize and funnel resources strategically, while sustaining a focus on the continuing and changing needs of Bermuda.

The Bermuda Emergency Fund saw more than $2,200,000 (BD) in pledges and contributions by September of last year and continued into this year. Deployment of the funds was swift and effective.

Funds have been deployed to support the EMO COVID-19 Community response which includes: Making quarantine calls and checking in on individuals in the community; Serving as first responders who need services/equipment including mental health support; Directing and coordinating services with the EMO in terms of disaster planning support; Supporting and coordinating homeless shelter needs and transporting individuals to testing centres.

Organizations receiving funding support include Bermuda Red Cross, Salvation Army (The) – Bermuda Division, St. John’s Ambulance, Food Security / Distribution / Support to Marginalized Families – ($771,812), Medical Care / Health Support / Distribution of Meds – ($288,932), Mental Health Support & Substance Use and Abuse – ($120,825), Safety / Protection from Domestic Violence / Abuse – ($95,000), Seniors Services / Nursing Homes – ($273,590), Unsheltered / Homelessness and Related Substance Abuse – ($248,678), Miscellaneous Administration & Communications ($2,686)

At times, requests for help are currently exceeding resources so are being assessed to ensure they meet criteria of national pandemic needs.

The Foundation uses a simplified application process to issue grants and set criteria to use limited funds to maximum impact. This community fund is poised to distribute stabilizing funding to nonprofit organizations to strengthen their operations during this incredible time of need. Periodic progress reports and a final impact report will ensure that funds have been utilized as intended.

And that calls for a nice tall drink at The Swizzle Inn or The Hog Penny. Your choice, you’re buying.

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The Editor

The Editor