First published in the Dec. 16 print issue of the Pasadena Outlook.
More than 20 months after the World Health Organization classified the coronavirus outbreak as a global health emergency, Pasadena nonprofit organizations are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Following the tumultuous, cascading ripple effects of the pandemic and ensuing economic fallout, many nonprofits were immersed in emergency responses to shore up the disparities of those in desperate need of food, housing and technology. On the tail-end of the grueling health crisis, those charities now are seen reevaluating their core missions and returning to more traditional operations. The “new” normal, however, may be forever changed, industry insiders have said.
“Some organizations will be forever changed in how they operate — all of us will be forever changed in some way,” said Pasadena Community Foundation President/CEO Jennifer DeVoll, reflecting on the past year. “There is a new kind of normal out there for how we interact and engage as people, the way technology has been integrated on so many more levels; there will be some benefits we are taking with us.”
Nonprofit sector servants and the donors who support their causes proved to be resilient during the pandemic, doubling down on efforts together in a renewed spirit of collaboration.
The recently released Giving USA study indicated a record $471 billion in charitable giving across the United States in 2020. Donors were moved by the needs and issues associated with the unprecedented combination of the pandemic, racial and social justice movements and economic turmoil.
“Nonprofit organizations are the pillars of Pasadena; I remain optimistic that this community is very dedicated to its nonprofit sector. The great thing about people here is that they are very generous. They give because it’s in their DNA and deeply feel the Pasadena value of giving back,” DeVoll told The Outlook in a previous interview.
Job losses and reduced wages, particularly among the already underemployed, widened the socio-economic divide during the pandemic, and nonprofits responded in kind, tripling food distribution and delivering to home bound seniors, medically fragile or to those in quarantine.
Other agencies deftly modified operations to better serve their communities: educational support services pivoted to virtual programs with phone calls, texts and technical support with hotspots and data plans; health services nonprofits embraced the age of telehealth, outdoor and virtual therapy, while others strove to keep clients from eviction.
“I feel proud of our community and all the collaborations that I’ve witnessed take place, as well as the innovation our nonprofit leaders have shown under terse circumstances,” DeVoll noted.
PCF, which is dedicated to managing charitable assets and earmarking money to nonprofit organizations of all kinds, was at the ready in 2020 to distribute emergency grant funds to charities serving seniors and distributing food and supplies to the homeless, low-income individuals and families, as well as other essential services.
In 2021, however, PCF returned to its more traditional capital grants program, awarding some $660,000 to 29 organizations. It also announced $250,000 to 10 agencies as part of a new racial equity grant program, made after forming a task force to bring in more African American and Latino voices in the grant-making process.
In total, PCF supported about 100 organizations in the Pasadena area this past year, and worked with the city and Pasadena Health Department on vaccine access and testing sites.
“One of the silver linings for us is that we’ve become even more collaborative as an organization with a new appreciation of the collective impact we can make. We will continue to mobilize our resources and relationships; together we are stronger,” DeVoll added.
PCF also created an arts recovery program, awarding $100,000 to about 14 arts groups, which struggled during the pandemic due to the cancellation of in-person events.
Giving USA said that although donations overall increased in 2020, gifts to arts organizations faltered as donors gave more focus to immediate basic needs. The inability of many organizations to shift all their programming online also had a negative impact on fundraising.
Some of the federal programming has since provided much-needed relief, DeVoll noted, such as the CARES Act and American Rescue Plan Act.
The iconic Rose Bowl Stadium announced that it recently was awarded $10 million as part of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program, designed to provide emergency assistance for eligible venues affected by the pandemic. The stadium was awarded two grants to reach the maximum $10 million available.
The funding couldn’t have come at a better time, noted Dedan Brozino, chief development officer of the stadium and Rose Bowl Legacy Foundation.
“As we approach our centennial birthday, the SVOG award will provide a welcomed infusion of support to appropriately recover to the level of premier entertainment and operation that our millions of guests have become accustomed to at America’s Stadium,” he said.
The Rose Bowl Stadium was impacted heavily by the pandemic. The storied venue’s gates were closed from March 13, 2020, until its soft reopening on April 9, 2021, with major and minor events returning later in 2021. The organization worked hard to create outdoor events on the grounds, such as movies and the flea market, and the golfing operations at Brookside Park thrived. In perhaps a nod to the challenges, the stadium was at first denied the Venue Operator’s Grant, without explanation. Only after an appeal was it later approved.
“This past year has been trying; a lot of times 2021 was unlike any other year I’ve ever experienced,” said General Manager/CEO Darryl Dunn.
“But we’re up and running. Nobody is running as fast as we’d like to be, but we’re still running and we’ve had some great successes. We’ve made the best we could out a very difficult situation, and we have a very healthy focus on future needs for the Rose Bowl that will carry over into 2022,” he added.
“I have an incredible appreciation and gratitude for the support during this difficult time; it’s humbling to realize that the Rose Bowl has such a positive impact on people,” Dunn said.
Among its successes, the Rose Bowl Legacy Foundation achieved its biggest donor year in 2021. Since its founding in 2010, the nonprofit has raised about $50 million to support the preservation of the stadium.
“Over the years, the Rose Bowl stadium has meant so much to so many people all over the world,” Brozino added. “Pasadena is the most philanthropic city of anywhere in the country. The spirit of giving among those living in the community is so special; people really began rallying to help us without being able to attend a soccer match or football game. It was really humbling; the community really stepped up and gave us the momentum to head into our 100th year with some incredible positivity.”