Jennifer Ford Reedy

Note from Jen: Turning optimism into action

April 8, 2020

One of our Bush Foundation values is to Spread Optimism. To us, that means thinking bigger and thinking differently about what is possible for people and communities. 

It does not mean pretending like things aren’t bad or difficult. Turning optimism into action requires being realistic and adjusting efforts to fit changing circumstances.

COVID-19 has changed circumstances in big and small ways for everyone in the region. We have been trying to be as flexible as possible in how we can support people in this time. This means letting go of our own plans. We already announced that we are cancelling the 2020 Bush Prize to redirect that funding to crisis response. We’ve also made the decision to hold off on the strategic evolution we were working toward this year.

When I shared last year that we were pushing ourselves to be more simple, more cohesive, and more open and responsive to the communities we serve, I said I would use these Notes from Jen to keep you up to date. We had a number of changes in the works. All those plans are on hold now. As the immediate and longer-term impacts of COVID-19 become clear, we want to be as flexible as we possibly can to meet community needs.

To be clear, we are not shutting down any of our current programs — like ecosystem grants or the Bush Fellowship — we are just not adding anything new outside of COVID-19 response for the foreseeable future.

With the money we repurposed from the Bush Prize, we made four grants to response efforts around the region: $1 million to the Minnesota Disaster Recovery Fund, $500,000 to the South Dakota Community Foundation’s Coronavirus Response Fund, $500,000 to the Dakota Medical Foundation’s Critical Safety Net Fund, and $500,000 to NDN Collective to support relief work in Indigenous communities in our region.

We are also glad to be part of the collaborative supporting the Saint Paul Bridge Fund which provide resources directly to individuals and businesses in need in our hometown.

Our purpose statement calls us to support creative problem solving — within and across sectors — to make the region better for everyone. There is no shortage of creative problem solving happening all around the region, this very minute. We are inspired by examples like the innovative collaboration between Second Harvest Heartland, local restaurants, and human service nonprofits (through Minnesota’s Central Kitchen) to prepare and deliver boxed lunches to people in need. We supported this effort through an expedited Community Innovation grant, and will continue expediting consideration of Community Innovation grant applications related to COVID-19.

We know we can’t come close to addressing all the needs in our region. We hope that focusing as much as possible on supporting COVID-19 problem solving efforts will have a meaningful impact now and help ensure our region emerges from this time stronger than ever. We have compiled a list of other COVID-19 response funding opportunities available to nonprofits, businesses and individuals in the region, and we will keep updating it. Please tell us if you know of other funds we should add.  

We also want to ensure that as many nonprofits in the region as possible take advantage of the Payroll Protection Program and other public funding opportunities. Propel Nonprofits offers some helpful resources for navigating the program.

Thank you for all the ways you are supporting others, when we need each other so much.