Dave Obee: Giving credit where it’s due for Rapid Relief Fund’s success

As we wrap up the most important fundraising project in Times Colonist history, it is important that we acknowledge and thank the people who helped to make the Rapid Relief Fund a great success.

The fund (RapidReliefFund.ca) has raised $6 million since it was launched in the middle of March. The idea was to provide a safety net for those who had been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, and get money into the hands of local charities within a matter of days.

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Those groups had been overwhelmed by a rush of people in need, including some who just weeks before had no idea they would ever need a helping hand. These people, new to the concept of asking for aid, joined a few thousand others who were already living on the edge.

It was, and still is, a tough time, unprecedented in our lifetimes.

That is why the Victoria Foundation and the Jawl Foundation, along with the Times Colonist, launched the fund. But the full credit for its success rests with those who gave. You, and you, and you made it happen.

The Victoria Foundation received more than 15,000 gifts of money, far more than it would normally get in a year. Amounts ranged from $5 to $200,000.

There were seven matching challenges from generous individuals and businesses, totalling $1,105,000. Dozens of people came up with fundraising ideas, including sales of t-shirts and flags, a 24-hour cycling event and more.

The community saw the need and came through. We should all be proud of what we have done.

The idea for the fund came in an email from Robert Jawl, representing the Jawl Foundation, after he read a couple of let’s-all-stay-calm columns I wrote just after the pandemic was declared.

“I read your letters in the paper over the weekend with interest and agree with your message fully,” he said.

“I wonder if there may be a way to mobilize the TC’s platform as a mechanism for aggregating funds to support filling certain vital community gaps that are going to be amplified by the turbulence of the coming months.”

The next step was to get the Victoria Foundation involved, and within hours the foundation’s board had agreed to take on the lead role — even though the foundation had just shut its office so staff members could work in the safety of their homes.

“Our staff worked like crazy to get everything in place, tested, and functional for what was a very unusual activity for us: fundraising,” says Sandra Richardson, the foundation’s CEO.

“Things we had to create included the online donation portal, the RapidReliefFund.ca webpage, all of the communications and background info, the system for grants including priority areas and approval processes, donation processes for online, e-transfers, cheques and wire transfers, receipting systems for all of the donations, etc., etc.”

Foundation staff members worked hundreds of hours of overtime, most of it unpaid, often working seven days in a week.

During the 90-minute Rock for Relief concert on CHEK on April 17, three staff members processed gifts received over the phone, and kept at it for another two and a half hours after the concert ended. They were at it again the following night, when CHEK presented an encore presentation of the concert.

CHEK staff members organized and packaged 2,500 commemorative t-shirts sold after the show, with proceeds going to the fund.

The foundation led the work in grant disbursements. To understand the needs and capacities of local agencies, staff members held hundreds of needs assessment meetings with individual charities, followed by meetings with advisers, committees and board members.

So far, more than $5 million has been distributed to 83 charities in Greater Victoria and up-Island. Disbursements will continue until all the $6 million is gone.

And that raises a crucial point: Every penny raised by the Rapid Relief Fund is being distributed. The Victoria Foundation is covering all administrative costs, all third-party fees, and all labour and supplies have been donated. That has been the concept from the start; the money had to go to those in need. No exceptions.

This fund was created to meet the tsunami of immediate needs that hit us in March. Now it is time for donations to go directly to the organizations working with those in need. Don’t forget them.

If you go to the RapidReliefFund.ca website, you’ll see how the Victoria Foundation has made it easy for you to continue to help the organizations that have stepped up to support the most vulnerable among us.

Your donations will make a difference in the coming months, just as they have in the past seven weeks.

And finally, a special, special thank you to everyone who helped make the Rapid Relief Fund a $6-million success.

dobee@timescolonist.com

HOW TO DONATE

Tax receipts will be issued. If you are open to receiving your tax receipt by PDF, please include an email address with your donation.

• Online: RapidReliefFund.ca

• Phone: 250-381-5532

• Mail: Send cheques (made out to the Victoria Foundation) to RapidRelief Fund, Victoria Foundation, 200-703 Broughton St., Victoria V8W 1E2

The Rapid Relief Fund was created by the Victoria Foundation, the Jawl Foundation, and the Times Colonist to help people in need as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. CHEK Television, Coast Outdoor Advertising and Black Press are helping to boost awareness. Every dollar received from donations goes out as grants to the community.

Donations are being distributed through the Victoria Foundation.

victoriafoundation.bc.ca/rapid-relief-fund-disbursements

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