Dan Smith: July 20 Update from our VT Flood Response & Relief Fund
Dear Friend of the Foundation,
Following up on my message from last week, I wanted to give you an update on the Vermont Community Foundation’s efforts following the catastrophic flooding events experienced across the state. These are just some of the ways we’ve responded:
Established the VT Flood Response & Recovery Fund 2023 to collect donations from Vermont and across the country.
Supported hundreds of our fundholders in making grants from their VCF funds to local organizations helping communities get back on their feet.
Expanded our Sudden and Urgent Needs grant program to make it easier for nonprofits impacted by the flood to quickly receive support.
First, I am humbled by the generosity of Vermonters and all who carry a bit of Vermont in them. As of this writing, more than $2.5 million has been received in gifts or commitments to the VT Flood Response and Recovery Fund 2023 since we opened it a little over a week ago. Thousands of donations have been received from individuals, families, businesses, VCF donor advised fundholders, and from donors across the country (more than 45 states and counting) and around the world.
The total includes donations from corporate friends like National Life Group, which raised an estimated $750,000 through its Do Good Fest and is matching these donations, resulting in a planned $1.5 million into the fund—the single largest gift to date; and $150,000 from TD Charitable Foundation who called the day after we opened the fund to make their generous contribution.
Media partners like Vermont Public, Front Porch Forum, and the Star 92.9 stations have been generous in helping us raise awareness of the funding effort. Vermont artists like Noah Kahan, Grace Potter, and Guster have contributed their abundant talent to the cause. Local businesses like Higher Ground, 802 Print, and Lawson’s Finest Liquids used their channels to encourage donations. We’ve received thousands of contributions from individuals and families, including long-time and well-known philanthropists as well as donors who we’re delighted to get to know for the first time. And, I can’t help but give a special shout-out to our youngest donors, who set up lemonade stands and organized a “Hopebox Derby” and then sent us the proceeds!
Dollars at Work
Since the beginning of the flooding, we have been in constant communication with nonprofit partners, community leaders, and federal, state, and local agencies to understand where the developing needs are greatest, so that we can direct charitable resources from the VT Flood Response and Recovery Fund quickly and thoughtfully—from the state’s capital, which was impacted significantly, to the smaller towns and communities where philanthropy is neither proximate nor robust enough to support the need.
It’s important to acknowledge that there are many important fundraising efforts currently in progress, and we are working closely with many of them in support of their efforts to have dollars reach the most vulnerable, to stretch dollars statewide, and to ensure that charitable capital is doing the most good possible at every stage of response and recovery.
Based on what we have learned, we see our work in three phases:
- Phase 1: Immediate Response and Relief
- Phase 2: Building Back Communities
- Phase 3: Watershed Resilience
This week, the first slate of Phase 1 grants has already gone out the door: more than $330,000 to organizations that are keeping people fed and sheltered, with an emphasis on those who were most directly impacted. Grantees include:
- State-level partners like the Red Cross, and Vermont’s five community action agencies.
- Partners who support small businesses and farms, like NOFA (Northeast Organic Farmers Association), the Intervale, AALV (Association of Africans Living in Vermont), and the Main Street Business Fund.
- Local efforts centered in affected communities, such as Jenna’s Promise in Johnson, Civic Standard in Hardwick, Black River Good Neighbor in Ludlow, Montpelier Strong, and the Barre Partnership.
- Neighbors helping neighbors: recognizing that so much response work currently underway comes in this form, we’ve partnered with Shelburne-based Hack Club to give local groups that don’t have nonprofit status the ability to raise money for local mutual aid flood efforts.
- Nonprofits whose physical spaces have been directly affected by the flooding.
We’ve also re-activated our partnership with VSECU to offer zero-interest loans to help people with emergency repairs while FEMA gets going.
You can read a full list of this round’s grantees in this press release. We expect our second round of Phase 1 grants to be awarded within the coming days, with additional rounds following soon after. By staggering grant rounds, we’re able to adjust and re-prioritize as needs evolve and as we learn more from our networks across the state.
The Need Is Still Great
With each additional rainfall over the past week, the impacts of flooding are expanding across the state. At least six counties in Vermont have been declared disaster areas by FEMA, and many other areas have been impacted economically. Current estimates are that more than 400 businesses have been disrupted since last week, and the fear is that many will not reopen. Thousands of families are juggling boil water orders, power outages, flood damage, and housing insecurity.
We’ve heard from our partners and community members struggling to get back on their feet that they are looking at a process that is not weeks-long, but months-long. If you live in an area of the state not touched by the direct impacts, it can be hard to understand the degree of devastation across Vermont. This event is an epic one, larger than Irene and only just 12 years hence. Every gift helps to restore and rebuild lives and there is much to do.
A gift to the Vermont Flood Response and Recovery Fund 2023 ensures that your contribution makes its way to affected communities and to the most vulnerable across the state, including smaller towns that often struggle to rebuild.
We’ll continue to provide updates on a regular basis, and you can always find the latest on our response and recovery efforts at vtfloodresponse.org.
Thank you for your generosity, your care, and your courage.
President & CEO