Grantmaking to make an impact

By Sylvia Fields, Executive Director of Eden Hall Foundation

Eden Hall Foundation doesn’t just talk about improving lives. We listen. We do our homework. We collaborate. We act. That commitment to thorough, rapid action has never served our community as well as it did in the last year.

While almost everything is different now, Eden Hall Foundation’s mission to improve the quality of life for all people has remained the same. What changed is how that mission is executed. As new and more complex needs were emerging, we issued grants to fill the gaps as fast as we could. We may have been building the bicycle as we were riding it, but the increased flexibility we adopted allowed Eden Hall Foundation, and our grantees, to provide swift relief for suffering neighbors.

From figuring out how to keep our families safe to navigating video conferences, we’ve all learned a lot. Professionally and personally, each of us has stretched and grown to take on new challenges and turn them into opportunities. The story of our collective perseverance is still being written, but I’d like to share a few things I’ve learned along the way.

  1. Stay true to your mission

We are living our mission now more than ever before. As an institution, we took a good hard look at ourselves and realized there were practices we could change to make sure we are doing the most good possible.

Operating grants, funds that can be used to pay for a non-profit’s overhead expenses like rent and salaries, have been desperately needed. Though hesitant to provide that funding in the past, we recognize the intense level of rising need and are worked to ensure the agencies providing critical services have what they need.

  1. Rely on trusted partners

Thanks to Eden Hall Foundation’s history in the region, we have a group of human service organizations that we consider pillars in the community. Our partner agencies  have their ears to the ground to anticipate shifts in need and work together to deliver successful results. United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania is the tip of that spear.

With our financial support of United Way’s Impact Fund, we have faith – no, more than faith, proof – that those dollars go toward addressing our community’s most pressing human service needs. Their partnerships and connections give United Way the power to bring others together to solve issues more significant than the sum of their parts. By trusting our partners and funding their good work, Eden Hall Foundation has been proud to do our part to put the region back on track.

  1. Allow your team to shine

Years ago, I would have said that remote or hybrid offices would never work. My goodness, was I wrong! If you have the right people, it does work. It’s effective and it saves time.

Members of our team have stepped up in incredible ways. Some shone by teaching us the process and etiquette of Zooming, others demonstrated their resilience under pressure, and more still lead the way while helping their kids through virtual school. The single most important asset you have is your team and I could not be more proud of the team at Eden Hall Foundation.

  1. Look toward the future with determination and optimism

Our society is experiencing a twin pandemic: COVID and racial inequity. The virus will pass, but we all must take responsibility to address the health disparities and social justice in our communities. We have a big job ahead, but I am optimistic that we will emerge from this better and ready to plan a brighter future.

The shift from crisis mode to recovery has started and there is a light at the end of this tunnel. In the years that come, we’ll doubtless look back and see how COVID laid bare all of our gaps and the weak points in our safety nets. But it also gave us the opportunity to build a stronger foundation and a more equitable society.