By Rachel Vogel Quinn | dsm Magazine

When flooding hit Des Moines in July 2018, nonprofit and government leaders realized they could have been more prepared. More than 40 organizations came together, with help from the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, to create a Disaster Recovery Fund (DRF). At the time, they had no idea they’d need to deploy it so soon, or in such a big way.

As the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked its havoc, the group worked through the weekend to launch the DRF March 16. The Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines and United Way of Central Iowa pledged $100,000 each. Administered by the Community Foundation, which is not charging an administrative fee, the DRF had raised more than $378,000 as of March 20.

A grantmaking committee will decide how to allocate funds. Grants will be awarded to direct-service organizations that support vulnerable populations. Long-term, the committee will address gaps that aren’t being filled by other programs.

“We know that low-income and marginalized communities are the first ones that will be impacted,” says Elisabeth Buck, president of United Way of Central Iowa. “They have the least assets right now to help sustain them.”

Even before the pandemic, one-third of Central Iowans were not making enough to meet their basic needs, says Buck. Many of these individuals, employed in the service and manufacturing industries, can no longer work due to pandemic-related closures.

Kristi Knous, president of the Community Foundation, has seen Central Iowa struggle before, especially during the 2008-09 economic crisis. At the time, nonprofits had to serve more people on smaller budgets. But Knous says donors did not stop giving. She believes they will step up again.

Buck shares the same hope: “We are here to support our nonprofits and make sure our community can come back from this really scary time stronger than we were before.”

What you can do:
● Donate to the Disaster Recover Fund online here.
● If you’re young and healthy, consider volunteering. Find COVID-19-related opportunities on United Way’s volunteer platform here.
● If you experience COVID-19 symptoms, or if you’re struggling financially due to lost work, call 211 for guidance and resources.

In other nonprofit-related news:

● Oakridge Neighborhood is seeking support to provide food, cleaning products and critical operations for the neighborhood’s 1,100 residents, nearly 90% of whom earn less than $20,000 a year.
● Hy-Vee has announced a goal to raise $1 million to help local food banks restock their shelves during the outbreak.