Responding to a staggering crisis whose health and socioeconomic implications were only beginning to be glimpsed, in April 2020 the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) announced the first round of grants in its $100 million global COVID-19 relief initiative. Over the next year, SNF support helped partners working in 57 countries across five continents meet the urgent needs in local communities. The expertise and on-the-ground insights of these partners informed the 211 grants made as part of the initiative.
The final round of grants included renewed support for a number of existing partners in the relief initiative, as well as new partnerships including a major forthcoming arts collaboration. Among others, the final grants supported:
- The Trust for Governors Island in enriching its public space with art commissions addressing themes like climate change and racial equity
- Malala Fund in enabling delivery of programming in India and Pakistan to help girls pursue their education
- The YWCA of Queens in hiring mental health professionals who speak Mandarin and Cantonese to provide support to older adults in the community
- Amref Health Africa in increasing access to maternal health care in Kenya, Malawi, and Zambia
- The San Antonio Food Bank in continuing to help meet elevated food need across Southwest Texas
“Our approach to grantmaking is to try to go where the need is, rather than follow a preconceived notion of what’s important,” said SNF Co-President Andreas Dracopoulos. “We’ve been listening and learning as we’ve gone along, and have had the best possible guides in this process—partners who have worked to overcome everything the pandemic has thrown at them in order to continue serving the most vulnerable among us. As the initiative concludes, our feeling as a team is one of overwhelming gratitude to our tireless partners.”
The relief initiative remained dynamic as it rolled out, responding to the situation as it unfolded. The first grant, made when the virus and the disease it causes were not well understood, was to bolster critical relevant scientific research. More recently, grants have helped bring public space to life once more and looked toward an equitable socioeconomic recovery for all. Certain constants remained throughout, including deep and widespread food insecurity, a lingering concern that predated and was exacerbated by the pandemic.
Themes that emerged in the initiative include:
- Access to food and essentials, from Acción contra el Hambre’s work delivering essentials in seven countries across Central and South America, to U.S. organizations like Rethink Food focusing on the welfare of those preparing food as well those as eating it, to Saha Global employing a network of women-run small water businesses to provide free clean water for hundreds of communities across Northern Ghana, to efforts in Greece by Boroume and the Central Union of Greek Municipalities to reach people across the country with food assistance
- Support for mental and physical health care, from a grant to add capacity for new ICU beds across Greece, to emergency medical interventions by Médecins Sans Frontières in Africa, the Middle East, and Greek islands where refugees are received, to remote mental health care services for thousands of older New Yorkers through Service Program for Older People
- Education and supportive networks for young people, from United World Schools’ work facilitating remote education in Nepal, Myanmar, and Cambodia, to Figure Skating in Harlem’s work guiding young women as they grow personally and academically, to Big Brothers Big Sisters of America’s work connecting young people across the country with mentors
- Emergency relief for artists and the reactivation of public space, from support for Artist Relief 2.0 through United States Artists, to the Stavros Niarchos Foundation-Lincoln Center Agora Initiative’s work to reimagine civic space
- A financial foundation for an equitable recovery, from the SNF Small Business Growth & Recovery Fund, to the New York Immigration Coalition’s creation of resources in seven languages for immigrant-owned small businesses
- Data and research, from The Rockefeller University’s round-the-clock research into COVID-19, to the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative’s coordination of a multi-country African-led clinical trial to identify early treatment options for the disease, to Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 Testing Insights Initiative
- Support for those on the front lines, from an honorarium given to over 4,700 individual hospital staff across Greece, to Vital Strategies’ Resolve to Save Lives initiative and its work backing frontline workers across Africa as they combat the pandemic
“Though the $100 million dedicated to the global COVID-19 relief initiative has been allocated, this does not mean that SNF’s focus is wavering from critical support related to the effects of the pandemic,” said SNF Chief Programs & Strategic Initiatives Officer Stelios Vassilakis. “The initiative was designed to get aid out to people in need in the near term. In the period ahead, our grantmaking work inevitably will be related, directly or indirectly, to continuing to help address the effects of the pandemic as society continues to grapple with them.”
SNF will continue to consider applications submitted through its regular open application on an ongoing basis, providing year-round access online to nonprofit organizations around the world.