We Lean on Each Other in Times of Crisis

If I had to distill the essence of MAF’s Rapid Response work into one word it would be: partnerships. Amidst the new social distancing, we’ve been able to come closer than ever to listen to one another and help each other during this unimaginable crisis.

Soon after the stay-at-home orders were given in March, we set out to help clients that we knew were going to be adversely impacted.

We heard from clients right away, anxious about losing income, not knowing how they were going to pay rent, buy food or even keep up with their monthly bills. We felt their concern and moved quickly to lift up a Rapid Response Fund on March 20th not really knowing the depth of the unfolding pandemic.

In the early moments of the crisis, the philanthropy field rallied to respond to this new challenge.

We partnered with foundations that stepped forward to support the communities they work with and care deeply about: college students, members of the creative economy, and immigrant families left out of the CARES Act. They worked to get money to us quickly, recognizing the urgency and helping us get money directly into the hands of those who needed it as fast as possible. I have never seen the grant process move so quickly, sprinting from our first conversation to commitment and disbursal within days. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you’re clear-eyed and committed to the end goal.

While the fundraising was ongoing, our team was repurposing our systems and technology to disburse cash grants at scale.

We built an entirely new application process for each of the communities we set out to support, spending time to consider how we could equitably address the tremendous need that was out there. We made sure that in each application we asked the right set of questions with care and respect and took time to understand each applicant’s financial reality, strategies, and resources. With this, we were able to prioritize need: we knew that first come, first served only exaggerated systemic inequities and barriers to access, privileging those with the fastest internet and best information. We created an alternative that focused the resources we have on those who needed it the most. And, underlying this whole process, we ensured our new system was set up with the same steadfast commitment to processing sensitive financial data efficiently and securely.

Seven weeks into the quarantine, we’re now in the middle of providing $500 grants to over 20,000 people who are in desperate financial need.

It is inspiring to take stock of what we have accomplished with our partners:

  • 3 Rapid Response funds supporting college students, young creatives, and immigrant families
  • 23 foundations pooling resources across all three funds
  • $12M in total to provide people with emergency financial relief
  • 26 outreach partners who are connecting us with eligible immigrant families

With our partners beside us and our small but mighty staff of 29 MAFistas, we’ve been able to support:

  • 75,000+ individuals who signed up looking for help
  • 52,000+ completed pre-applications with insights about people’s financial situation
  • 8,000+ completed full applications on our secure platform
  • 5,500+ grants distributed and deposited into checking accounts

At every step, there has been a lot of careful and thoughtful work behind all of these numbers.

MAFistas stepped up to ensure that we built the right applications, used the right technology, and created the right process for each of the communities we’re helping – all done with care and urgency to help people in this moment of crisis. Why? Simply put: we have received over 7,000 emails, calls, tickets from people asking for help – we hear their stories, their cries for help – and that’s motivating staff to go above and beyond our normal work to show up for people in their time of need.

I can only say that it is truly humbling to witness such devotion.

With this kindness and compassion behind it, we are demonstrating the best of what technology and finance can be. And with our partners beside us, we are demonstrating what it means to show up for people – to help families in this moment of crisis not only with financial aid but, most importantly, a message of hope and solidarity that they are not alone.

You can support MAF’s Rapid Response Fund here.

José Quiñonez
Founder & CEO at MAF

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