Dunham Foundation

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North America

The Dunham Foundation tackles its community’s most urgent COVID-19 needs in fastest way.


The Dunham Foundation in Illinois seeks to build a healthy, thriving community through grantmaking. When COVID-19 began impacting local organizations, the Dunham Foundation needed the right grantmaking partner to respond as quickly as possible.    

The Dunham Foundation made quick adjustments to its grantmaking process to ensure that it could drive the most impact in its Illinois community during COVID-19. With Blackbaud as a partner, the Dunham Foundation transitioned to an interim grant application that would streamline funding and best honor the vision of its founder, John C. Dunham, to build a healthy, thriving community through grantmaking.

The Dunham Foundation recognized early on the constraints on local nonprofit organizations and set out to make its grant application faster and easier for organizations to apply. That simplified process allowed the Dunham Foundation to respond more efficiently and effectively. Among its changes, the Dunham Foundation removed its deadline, suspended its letter of intent requirement, allowed online applications for small grants, and emphasized applications addressing COVID-19 needs.

“With Blackbaud Grantmaking, it’s kind of business as usual,” said President and CEO Vicki Morcos. “One of the things we can do is easily go and change the application to make things seamless for organizations we’re serving.”

The Dunham Foundation provides grants to organizations that encourage innovation and collaboration in educational and community development programs and projects. In the wake of COVID-19, the Dunham Foundation focused on the most pressing needs and ensuring that organizations could avoid obstacles to grant funding that could keep them afloat within a challenging financial landscape. “As money starts to filter to states and communities and we learn how federal and state dollars will be allocated,” Morcos explained, “we are also discovering how can we fill that gap.”

Morcos said local homeless shelters surfaced urgent needs early on, as they handled unanticipated demand by setting up tents in warehouses to afford families privacy. Food pantries also experienced a surge in clients, as local churches had to shut down their own soup kitchens suddenly. Walk-in social services that transitioned to home visits required more staff and proper sanitation and protective equipment—both costly changes.

In addition to making adjustments to its grantmaking process at the outset of the pandemic, the Dunham Foundation partnered with four other local grantmakers to pool resources and launch the Fox Valley Grantmakers COVID-19 Response Fund to address the most critical needs in quality healthcare, human services, and educational opportunities. “It was important for us to come together with our funding partners to maximize our resources,” Morcos said, “in an effort to address as many needs as possible.”

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Dunham Foundation
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