GDDF Response to COVID-19

May 15, 2020

Image from Black Metropolis Research Consortium Archives


Last month we launched our Collections Emergency Relief Fund, and today we are pleased to announce we expended the full $200,000 fund, awarding grants to 32 small, regionally-focused museums, libraries, and other collecting organizations across the Chicago Region and the Lowcountry of South Carolina. Additional information, including a complete list of grantees, will be released shortly.

[Image from the archives of the Black Metropolis Research Consortium].


In the Lowcountry, Together SC is hosting a call with Representative Joe Cunningham for nonprofit, community and philanthropic leaders about the issues our state faces – Monday, May 18th at 12:30pm ET. 

Residents of the City of Chicago are encouraged to complete this survey gauging public sentiment regarding stay-at-home and reopening.

Check out this list of opportunities to see the work of our arts and collections grantees virtually!


Today is the last day to apply for the South Carolina Arts Commission’s arts emergency relief grants. The guidelines and application are here.

South Carolina Arts Alliance has compiled this list of tools and tips for sharing art online, like the Acapella app to make collaborative videos. If you have a tip or tool to share, shoot us an email and we’ll add to our resources page.

Current Chicago arts grantees are invited to register for two free workshops led by Financial Management Associates (FMA).

The League of Chicago Theaters has a searchable list of all its member organizations’ virtual shows, and is also selling these cool T-shirts to help fund the Chicago Theatres Workers Relief Fund.

Round two of the Arts for Illinois Fund is underway. The application portal is closed, but donations can still be made here. Round 1 awarded more than $3.3 million dollars to 906 artists and 166 arts organizations across the state.


Land Trust Alliance is holding the first-ever virtual Rally: National Land Conservation Conference to be held October 6–8. The first announced speaker is Nina Simon, from the OF/BY/FOR ALL, a global nonprofit that creates tools to help organizations become more inclusive, relevant, and sustainable. Simon is the best-selling author of The Participatory Museum and The Art of Relevance.

Audubon SC is producing videos and hosting webinars on Audubon South Carolina’s policy agenda, the best birding trips, and bird-friendly native plants; find them here on the Love of Birds webpage. Audubon National is hosting a weekly live show – I Saw A Bird. Tune in each Wednesday at 7:00PM ET as they welcome celebrities and special guests for a lively conversation about birds. [Image of Audubon SC Francis Beidler Forest from GDDF archives].


May 1, 2020

Charleston Chamber Musicians and Palmetto City Dance collaboration

We have loved seeing the creative ways artists and arts organizations are sharing their art. Check out this collaboration between Chamber Music Charleston and Palmetto City Ballet, celebrating Charleston’s 350th birthday!


With last week’s passing of the PPP Health Care Enhancement Act, also known as the “COVID-19 3.5” relief package, we compiled a list of groups that provide application and lending support and some resources that explain what’s available.

More regional and program-specific resources are listed here.


  • FMA is running a webinar series for South Carolina arts organizations, focused on financial best practices for moving beyond the coronavirus.
  • Our Collections Emergency Relief Fund closes today, May 1.
  • Our Lowcountry Artistic Vitality Emergency Fund is open and applications are being reviewed on a rolling basis.
  • Reminder to existing Artistic Vitality grantees who would usually be in our fall cycle. Those choosing to receive an expedited grant, the application and final report deadline is next Friday, May 8.
  • The next application deadline remains July 31 for all new applicants, conservation grantees, and arts grantees choosing not to accelerate.
  • We are excited to announce the launch of electronic grant payments. Grantees can still choose to receive a mailed paper check, but with many offices closed or unable to receive mail, we are pleased to offer this option.


We were heartened to see that a grant made to Coastal Carolina University last year has led to additional funding and partnerships to support documenting stories and cultural artifacts of Gullah communities in Georgetown County, SC.

In the conservation world, while humans are sheltering at home, wildlife has been checking out new territory. In Chicagoland, piping plovers are returning to the beaches, according to this Chicago Tribune story.


Friday, April 17, 2020

Next week is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. During this time of COVID-19, we’re thinking about this year’s 2020 theme: climate action. As is the case with COVID-19, climate change disproportionately impacts Black, Native and Latinx communities.

In light of this topic, we share this blog from Trust for Public Land, interviewing organizer Arturo Sandoval about his role in the history of Earth Day – a day that for generations has driven people to defend the planet we call home and to defend the most vulnerable in our communities.


With Earth Day in mind, here are some tips on exploring nature during COVID –

Land Trust Alliance has compiled these resources for conservation groups –


Our Collections Emergency Relief Fund is open now through May 1 –


  • We have loved seeing artists and organizations adapting their work to be virtual. Here is a list of performances, music, art shows, and more, compiled from grantees –
  •  Our Lowcountry Artistic Vitality Emergency Fund is open. Applications are being reviewed on a rolling basis; emails were sent to eligible grantees last week.
  • For existing Artistic Vitality grantees, the deadline for our fall grant cycle is May 8. for those choosing to receive early payment of grants. The deadline for all new organizations, and for grantees choosing not to accelerate, is July 31.


Friday, April 10, 2020

Learning as We Go, Responding to the COVID PandemicA Letter from David Farren, Executive Director


We will begin accepting applications for our $200,000 Collections Emergency Relief Fund on April 15. The fund was established to provide immediate support to smaller collections organizations in both Chicago and the Lowcountry. Museums and libraries with budgets up to $1 million and regionally focused collections as part of their missions, will be eligible to apply. The unrestricted grants up to $10,000 will support organizations with immediate lost revenue and non-recoverable expenses due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The portal will be open April 15 to May 1.

The Arts for Illinois Relief Fund – launched only last week – now has over 6,500 applications! With the goal to provide relief to as many individuals and organizations as possible, help is needed. Individuals and institutions can donate here to support the Illinois arts community. 

Earlier this week in the Lowcountry, we launched a $100,000 emergency relief fund for arts grantees with budgets under $1 million. The form and details were shared directly to eligible grantees.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Hoping this Friday finds you and yours healthy. This is an uncertain time for all of us, and we hope that this week’s updates will provide some initial relief and guidance for our grantees, friends, and colleagues.

Applications for The Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program open today on a first come, first serve basis. This program provides potentially forgivable loans to nonprofits for certain payroll and operating expenses. See FMA’s resource page for more information.

Update from our Board

Last week our board held an emergency meeting to discuss the extraordinary circumstances our communities and grantees are grappling with at this time. Recognizing the severe impact to the arts and culture sector, whose venues were suddenly shuttered, we would like to share the following board decisions. In allocating our funding and staff resources, we have prioritized the smallest, most vulnerable groups in our initial response:

Artistic Vitality

  • Expedited 2020 general operating funds have been offered to existing artistic vitality grantees in both regions, totaling $2 million dollars. This includes releasing $1.2 million previously awarded grant payments months early, in addition to expediting approval of $800,000 in renewal grants.
  • As part of the Arts for Illinois Relief Fund, we have awarded $200,000 to the Arts Work Fund, a GDDF grantee, for its emergency relief fund for arts organizations with budgets under $1 million dollars. More details and the application can be found here – We encourage other donors to join the Relief Fund, which supports individual artists in addition to organizations. More details here –
  • A $100,000 emergency relief fund is being created for Lowcountry arts grantees with budgets up to $1 million dollars. The fund will provide up to $5,000 in aid per organization to address critical needs. Details will be announced next week, with the goal to release the funds over the coming month.


  • We are creating an emergency relief fund of $200,000 for grants up to $10,000 each for small, regionally-focused, museum and library collections organizations with budgets up to $1 million dollars in Chicago and the Lowcountry. Details will be announced next week.
  • We are expediting general operating grants totaling $125,000 to five grantees that serve as resource organizations in our two regions.

Land Conservation

While the arts & culture sector is facing the most severe immediate needs, we recognize the land conservation community will be grappling with significant impacts over the coming months. We realize that both operations and revenue sources will be impacted. We are committed to supporting our long-term conservation grantees, are working with our board to develop a plan, and will share our efforts in this area as soon as we are able.

Previously Announced

  • We awarded $25,000 to each of our two region’s community foundations’ health and human services emergency funds.
  • We are honoring all existing grants and grantee relationships and not reducing our overall grant payout for 2020. We have relaxed proposal and reporting requirements for all grantees.
  • We will continue to accept proposals from organizations new to us, and will review them on our standard schedule.
  • We are supporting affinity groups and participating in advocacy efforts.
  • A curated list of resources can be found here: 
  • A list of virtual performance and other artistic opportunities can be found here: 

We will continue to monitor all areas, remaining available to grantees remotely, sharing and collaborating with other funders and partners, and conferring with our board on additional responses.

Friday, March 27, 2020

We hope you are staying safe and well, following the recommendations of health professionals. For the latest national and regional updates, visit the National Institutes of Health page.

A reminder that today’s report and application deadline was moved to Friday, April 10. We know that the current circumstances may make it difficult to share programming plans, present accurate financial projections, know timelines for outcomes, etc. We are relaxing the requirements for these forms; grantees, please see your email for more details from program staff.

We want to assure grantees that we are honoring all existing grant commitments for 2020. We are working out the specifics of how to address this and considering other ways we can be of assistance by program area and region. Stay tuned for more details.

As you’ve likely heard, the federal government is passing laws to deal with COVID-19, some of which impact non-profits. The National Council of Nonprofits has provided an overview. You can check with your specific membership group for more details:

We have started compiling a list of resources nationally, regionally, and specific to each of our program areas. If you have any information to add, please email

We are also compiling a list of virtual performances and other ways arts and collections organizations are remaining creative while being physically distanced. If you have anything to add, please email for Chicago region events, and for Lowcountry events.

This just in, Chicago Program Officer, Ellen Placey Wadey, was on WLS-AM discussing how to support the arts sector during this time – listen in here.

Take care, and please be encouraged to stay in touch with your primary GDDF staff contact. Working remotely during normal business hours, we are available by email.

Friday, March 20, 2020

We know how pressed you are with immediate needs, while fielding all sorts of communications across various channels. Thanks for staying in virtual touch with GDDF as you navigate these extremely challenging times. We share your concerns about the unique immediate impacts in each of our mission areas across our two funding regions. Staff remain fully engaged working remotely, including collaborating with other funders, to create and contribute to emergency funds, and strategize on the best ways to provide additional support through the pandemic and beyond.

As a first step, we have made $25,000 contributions to each of our community foundations’ emergency relief funds that will provide financial and other assistance to health and human services non-profits:

Mitigating immediate impacts and “flattening the curve” will help all of us to resume operations as soon as feasible. We know that this is a dynamic situation, and available public and private health, social services, and economic relief programs will continue to unfold.

For our grantees, in case you missed it, our next proposal / final report deadline has been extended two weeks to April 10th. We are considering a range of additional options to further support grantees and partners, and we will be in touch with details soon.

Resources, from support opportunities to creative online collaboration resources, will be shared on our social media channels and on our website here: This page will be updated often in the coming weeks. If your organization is doing any online programming, please share with us!

Please do not hesitate to reach out to your primary GDDF staff contact. Working remotely during normal business hours, we are available by email: And, please stay tuned for further updates.

Be well.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Dear friends –

We recognize that the COVID-19 situation is changing rapidly, and in this time of uncertainty, wanted to share our current plans:

  • In order to minimize contact between people, our Chicago and Charleston offices are closed starting Monday, March 16. Staff will be working remotely, with access to email and voicemail.
  • In-person gatherings are postponed, cancelled, or moved to a virtual space for the foreseeable future. If you are a participant in one of those, you will hear from a staff member directly.
  • Proposals & reports due March 27th are now due April 10th.
  • If we provided sponsorship or paid attendance for a conference or event that is cancelled, we will not request a refund.
  • We will post updates here – – and on social media. Any major changes will be sent via this newsletter.

We value the relationships we have with you, and our virtual lines of communication remain open for conversation.

We wish you and your community health and peace of mind.


David Farren, Executive Director

For reference, here are links to regional health orgs for more local updates:

World and National updates:

  • World Health Organization –
  • The Centers for Disease Control –

Header image by artist Amiri Farris via the South Carolina Arts Commission.

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