Q&A with Katie Wright
While many of us are staying-at-home and are, by definition, not moving around too much the world is moving very fast to figure out next steps in the time of coronavirus. Leadership in a crisis is rapidly making decisions with too little information and ever-changing data. We thought we would check in with Executive Director, Katie Wright, on what this means day-to-day for the Park City Community Foundation and learn more about what they are doing to influence policies and represent the nonprofit sector.
Q: Before we dive into the specifics of the Community Foundation’s response to the impact of COVID-19, can you tell us a little about daily operations at the Community Foundation?
A: Like everyone, we’re working from home, perfecting our Zoom backgrounds, and enjoying the frequent dog barks and kid giggles that are a part of meetings these days.
Our board made a strategic decision very early on to pour our resources – human and financial capital – to serving our community’s most vulnerable who are greatly affected by COVID-19. But, we also know that one of the first tenets of crisis philanthropy are to continue to fulfil your obligations and to support key programs that we already have.
An example of what that means to the Community Foundation is ensuring that the Summit County Early Childhood Alliance has financial resources to weather this storm. We’ve expedited grants to key organizations, like PC Tots, and loosened some of the agreements about how those funds can be used. In March and April we conducted close to 50 grantee site visits, but most of them were virtual this year. And we’ll announce our Women’s Giving Fund finalists soon.
Q: The Community Foundation has made $360,000 in grants supporting people who have been disproportionally affect by COVID-19. Donors generously gave $1.2 million to the Community Response Fund. Is that enough? How deep is the need?
A: I don’t think there is a person on this planet that can answer that question definitively. With that said, we are trying to estimate and project the scope of need and how we can best serve our community. One estimate is that we’ll need at least $2.7 million to address the urgent needs of vulnerable people and ensure that critical local nonprofits stay afloat. We’ve come a long way, but it’s going to be a long haul.
Q: How do you begin to scope a response to a need that is so great and a future that is so uncertain?
A: Our role is to lead the philanthropic response – we are one piece of the puzzle, and we must partner with government, business, and residents too.
What that means, practically, is that I’m spending more time, via Zoom, with local government officials and business leaders than ever before. We always look for cross-sector partnership, but this collaboration is at another level!
Q: Tell us more about what these collaborations are doing.
One group is for the Summit County Stabilization Planning and is convened by the County Health Department to help determine when and how to open back up. They want to ensure that we are opening our economy safely and inclusively. My role has been to inform the process from the perspective of the nonprofit sector, and then communicate back out to local nonprofits.
Also I’m the staff liaison for the summer camps and home services sectors. The reality is that no family can return to work if they don’t have a safe place for kids. Summer camps are critical to families, and we’ve convened them specifically to look at how they may safely operate.
Home services are not always an organized group. They are often women, low-income, and not necessarily active in trade organizations. But it is essential that they are able to earn a living and care for their families. We wanted to be sure they were engaged in the process too.
Q: What else?
A: The County has written a plan, “Summit County Recovers,” that nests under the state’s plan, “Utah Leads Together.” One of the three guiding principles is equity, and I’ve helped write the People pillar (there are four pillars: people, health, economy, and local government). It’s another avenue to advocate for resources for the community’s most vulnerable and ensure their needs and priorities are met.
Another great partnership has been between the City, service providers, and the Community Foundation. Because of our Solomon Fund, we have excellent communications with the Latinx community based on trust. Now we have a weekly Facebook live meeting in Spanish to connect community members with services, to relay information, and hear concerns. The turnout has been through the roof.
Q: Our County’s stay-at-home order expires May 1. Assuming that things begin to open up then, what does this mean for the Community Response Fund?
What I’ve come to understand is that Park City is in a uniquely challenged position. It will be a long time until we are able to gather as we did before. This has dramatic impacts for tourism and for people who work in hospitality.
This prolonged economic slowdown, coupled with the reality that many of our families don’t qualify for support from unemployment because of their documentation status, means that we will have many, many families unemployed or underemployed – perhaps until the end of the year.
We will continue to raise funds and make grants to support rental assistance, healthcare access, and food security. We will need to close a large funding gap to get to the estimated $2.7 million needed for recovery.
Additionally – and we’re just at the very beginning of this – we want to work with landlords to see if we can chart a path where everyone shares the burden, and families have stability. What if landlords decreased their rents by 30 or 50%? What if philanthropy kicked in another 30% and families paid what they could? An incredible amount of suffering, and a lot of stability in a scary time could be realized by a partnership like this.
But we need help – so if you know a landlord at an apartment building, let us know!
Q. Thank you, Katie. Is there anything else you want to add?
A. I’m very happy that the Community Foundation is able to play a prominent role in helping inform policies and in advocating for under-served communities within the county. We wouldn’t be able to do that without the ongoing support of our donors, and I extend a heartfelt thanks to all of them.