COVID-19 changed everything.

Suddenly in mid-March 2020, as our state sheltered in place to combat the coronavirus, our nonprofit community found itself on the front lines – with increased demand for services, disrupted fundraising and abrupt closures.

The Community Foundation of Tampa Bay responded quickly in several ways. We:

  • Expedited semi-annual endowment distributions to get $1.64 million in the hands of nonprofits with endowments.
  • Activated the Nonprofit Needs List, where nonprofits could let donors and the community at large know about their specific, immediate needs.
  • Shifted our grantmaking focus to help meet the new demands.
  • Established the Fundholder Match Program to leverage money already set aside for philanthropy to meet urgent needs.
  • Launched the Tampa Bay Rapid Response Fund to channel donations.


By the end of August, the Nonprofit Needs List had showcased more than $35 million in requests from nonprofits across our five county service area. The specific needs shifted and evolved, but covered every category of nonprofit work – food and shelter, health and wellness, education, arts and culture, animal welfare and more.

Between the end of March and the end of August 2020, with our donors and partners, we were able to:

  • Grant more than $3.1 million to meet needs on the Nonprofit Needs List.
  • Fully and partially fund 187 of those requests.
  • Provide matching funds to 233 gifts from our fundholders.


The pandemic and its effects will be with us for the foreseeable future. We continue to make connections and to generate resources to meet critical demands in our community.

We remain grateful for the trust our donors, partners and the community have placed in us as a steward of our region’s philanthropy, and we are committed to remaining diligent in our pursuit of a stronger, more vibrant, more resilient Tampa Bay.


Showered and Empowered

The nonprofit, which brings shower and laundry service to the homeless across the region, was able to buy a new F250 truck to pull its mobile shower and laundry trailer with a $50,000 grant. The new vehicle allowed more dependability and fuel efficiency when traveling to outreach locations.

Since September of 2018, the nonprofit has provided over 2,000 showers and 150 loads of laundry. Thanks to the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay and its donor, the Colin T. Madden Memorial Fund, the organization will be able to continue expanding its territory in Polk and Pasco counties.

Hillsborough Education Foundation

A $125,000 grant provided WiFi to 1,000 needy South Hillsborough families, which allowed learning to continue through the summer and beyond.

The move to online school hit poorer communities hard. Even after the Hillsborough School District handed out devices to needy students, a problem remained: adequate WiFi access.

“We had families driving around, looking for WiFi access at McDonald’s and anywhere they could find it,” said Kim Jowell, executive director of the Hillsborough Education Foundation. “Or they were using data on prepaid cell phones. We heard from one mom who was trying to load money on her phone every day.”

Without access, students such as those from the Wimauma area who already struggle lost weeks of learning.

“One hotspot can help multiple people in one family,” Jowell said.

The hotspots allow students in the Wimauma and Ruskin areas to do their school work, interact with their teachers and continue learning.

“It’s definitely a game-changer for these kids and for their parents, too,” said Carol Mayo, supervisor of migrant programs for Hillsborough County Schools. For the first time, many of the parents can log into the school system portal to see their children’s assignments and other information. “It’s opened a whole new world they didn’t know existed,” Mayo said.

Bess the Book Bus

A $7,500 grant to Bess the Book Bus covered shipping and distribution costs for 10,000 age-appropriate books to children who are economically challenged. When families go to Bess’s program partners to pick up food or meals, they are provided with age-appropriate books for each child.

Bess the Book Bus offered this mobile service to over 3,000 families, averaging 2 to 3 books per family.

Seniors in Service

A $7,500 grant to Seniors in Service helped connect isolated seniors in the South Shore area with the outside world. The free TelePals program matched volunteers with seniors for phone check ins and conversations.

“Just having another human being say, ‘Hey, you matter,” can make such a difference for isolated, homebound seniors,” said Robin Ingles, Seniors in Service CEO. “Helping seniors age with dignity, particularly low-income elders, demands urgent attention, and now with COVID-19, it’s even more complex.


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