Two Observations and Our Response to COVID-19

March 18, 2020

Our inboxes, like yours, are full of messages from organizations sharing their thoughtful responses to COVID-19. We are also in close [virtual] contact with many of our grantee partners, listening to the challenges that organizations and their leaders are navigating as a result of the pandemic. In all of these communications, we are struck by two things:

First, this global crisis is likely to have the greatest impact on those who are already strained:

  • Our health safety net partners that are on the front lines serving the region’s most vulnerable are experiencing new and exacerbated challenges, including staff and volunteer availability, cancellations of fundraisers, shortage of supplies, and greater demand for their services.
  • Our seniors who often have chronic medical conditions are at higher risk of poor outcomes from COVID-19.
  • Our community members, including artists, public housing residents and those not able to work remotely who are struggling with lack of childcare, and often experience income, food or housing instability.
  • Our non-English speaking neighbors who may find it particularly difficult to process communications or access services.
  • Our friends who have experienced trauma or struggle with mental health issues that may be triggered or exacerbated during these uncertain times.

In the short and long-term, these challenges will likely deepen inequities in our region and beyond. Especially now, our Trustees and staff team are committed to living into our mission to foster an equitable and healthy Richmond region.

Second, we are encouraged by the resilience, creativity and collective humanity of those in our region. We recognize that now, more than ever, we need to remain connected to one another, albeit virtually, given the critical importance of social distancing.

For those reasons, we are taking the following actions with the primary goal of ensuring the health and well-being of our team and supporting our partners in a flexible and responsive way:

  • In line with recommendations from VDH and the CDC, we have closed our offices, including our community room, until further notice, and we are leveraging technology to work and connect virtually. Our full team is available and accessible. Grantee partners should experience no interruptions in our service.

Staff contact information:


  • We will continue to make decisions in alignment with our Strategic Framework, while also being flexible and responsive to the needs of our partners.
  • We are extending the deadline for submitting the “HEArts 2020” and “Access to Behavioral Health Care” grant applications.
  • The HEArts 2020 grant deadline will be extended from Wednesday, March 18th, to Wednesday, April 1st. Please direct any questions to Kendra Jones, Director for Health Equity, Arts and Culture at [email protected].
  • The Access to Behavioral Health grant deadline has been extended from this Friday, March 20th, to Friday, April 3rd. Applications may also address behavioral health issues resulting from COVID-19. Please direct any questions to Lisa Bender, Program Officer & Grants Manager at [email protected]
  • We are open to grantee requests to repurpose existing funding. We understand that general operating support grants and other long-term, flexible sources of support are especially valuable. For these reasons, a significant portion of our upcoming grants are multi-year, general operating support grants. For organizations with current grants that are more programmatic in nature, we are open to repurposing these as general operating support to address current challenges. Please reach out to your specific program officer with any questions or requests.
  • If your program, conference or other grant activity is cancelled or postponed due to COVID-19, rest assured that your funding from RMHF will not be affected. We understand you may have sunk costs. Please work with your specific program officer to repurpose any remaining funds for other activities.
  • We are working independently and with the other foundations in our region to explore ways to respond to the emerging challenges in ways that minimize the burden on partners. We are deeply encouraged by the work of our philanthropic partners and by the spirit of collaboration.

Finally, we are working now with our Trustees to determine RMHF’s first-phase response to COVID-19 and will share with our partners next week.

We close this post by sharing a hopeful quote from Maya Angelou’s poem “Still I Rise” that speaks to the spirit and determination of our region.

“Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.”


Thank you for all you are doing to contribute to the health, well-being and resilience of our community.