CFNIL Response to COVID-19

The Community Foundation of Northern Illinois has kept faith with its mission to inspire endowment and promote philanthropy for the current and future needs of the people of Northern Illinois for more than 65 years. Facing a global pandemic was no different; in fact, the foresight and generosity of past generations allowed CFNIL to respond with both targeted and general support for the challenge facing our local communities.

This support included over $300,000 toward the ongoing local COVID-19 response and a commitment to flexibility and responsiveness for grantees:

  • Natural Disaster Assistance Fund: This fund was established in 2008 to assist individuals and families living in Winnebago County with disaster-related expenses. Disbursements were available from the fund for the COVID-19 response thanks to a joint declaration of need from the Mayor of Rockford and the Winnebago County Board Chair. CFNIL distributed $70,000 from the fund.
  • 815 Community Response Team: CFNIL joined United Way of Rock River Valley and other funders and community partners in a new coalition known as the 815 Community Response Team (815CRT). 815CRT worked with nonprofits to identify needs and make funds available for both immediate, emergency needs, as well as ongoing needs. CFNIL’s Board of Trustees committed:
    • $57,000 for immediate, emergency needs distributed in conjunction with the 815CRT Grants Committee, of which CFNIL is a member.
    • $150,000 to help nonprofits recover from COVID-19 losses via the 81Thrive initiative. Learn more >>
  • Partnership with Freeport Community Foundation: CFNIL was invited to apply for funding from the Illinois COVID-19 Response Fund to be distributed to nonprofits in Stephenson County, and was awarded $60,000. CFNIL partnered with the Freeport Community Foundation (FCF) to administer the grantmaking process, and provided an additional $1,200 to FCF to support their administrative efforts. The $60,000 was ultimately distributed to nine nonprofits providing emergency services to Stephenson County residents impacted by COVID-19. 
  • Support for Arts organizations: CFNIL was invited to participate in a match challenge by the Illinois Arts Alliance. In partnership with Kjellstrom Family Foundation, $40,000 was pledged and matched by $20,000 from the Arts Alliance. The combined $60,000 was awarded to four northern Illinois arts organizations to help cover losses and impact from COVID-19. 
  • Flexibility and Responsiveness for Current Grantees: Nearly 70 organizations received over $1.4 million in CFNIL’s 2019 Community Grants cycle. For many of these grantees, the programs and projects that were funded have been disrupted by COVID-19. CFNIL staff and trustees worked to provide flexible options, including adjusting event timing, extending deadlines, and adjusting outcomes or results. CFNIL staff maintained ongoing conversations with grantees to ensure the grant dollars would be used to benefit the organization and our community, even if that use looked different from the original proposal.
  • Commitment to Ongoing Grantmaking: As the impacts of the pandemic continued to unfold, CFNIL continued to operate our grant programs and distribute grants from donor advised and donor designated endowments. CFNIL uses a rolling 12-quarter average to determine available to grant allocations, which ensures that grantmaking in the near-term provided virtually the same level of funding for our community as the previous year.

Since our inception, CFNIL has worked with the long game in mind; we’re committed to being a stable and growing resource, to honor the intent and generosity of thousands of donors over more than half a century, and to connect the results of that past generosity to current needs. CFNIL Trustees will continue to exercise careful stewardship of every fund and thoughtful oversight in grantmaking. The Community Foundation of Northern Illinois stands ready to support the people and places of our region through the known challenges of today and the unknown needs of tomorrow.

Need more information? Contact Jennifer!

Jennifer Smith - Engagement Director - headshot
Jennifer Smith
Engagement Director
Phone: 7792108204
Email: Jennifer Smith