Since COVID-19 began spreading, the world has faced its darkest hour in a century. In the US, and here in the Bay Area, we have had to contend with not just a deadly virus and economic catastrophe, but also deadly forms of institutional racism—and its devastating effects even before the pandemic. The San Francisco Foundation is focused on reimagining and rebuilding our systems so that everyone in the Bay Area, regardless of their skin color or zip code, can thrive. And the Rapid Response Fund is a key part of our strategy.
We launched this fund in November 2016, in the wake of a new political era. That winter, new policies were being introduced that were brazenly designed to attack people of color and communities with low incomes. Grassroots organizations needed immediate funding to protect and empower communities under siege. Since then, the fund has provided $2.4 million in funding to nearly 200 organizations for urgent Know-Your-Rights trainings, direct actions, workshops to educate community members on changing policies, and more.
When COVID hit, we replicated the Rapid Response Fund model—a barebones application and grants issued within days—to launch our COVID Emergency Response Fund two days after the Bay Area issued Shelter-in-Place orders. With residents suddenly unable to pay their rent nor afford groceries, we knew we couldn't afford to wait.
While our COVID fund provided emergency grants to help with basic needs, the Rapid Response Fund continued to support much-needed community organizing during a pandemic and a nationwide call for racial justice. Grants supported work centered on racial solidarity, combating anti-Asian hate, organizing essential workers during the pandemic, and mobilizing voters during a critical election year. We invite you to learn more about this fund's vital work in 2020 and 2021, and to read about the lives this fund touched during a terrifying time that helped us strengthen our resilience.