Amplifying Community Voices and Solutions for a Just Recovery from Covid-19

Molly de Aguiar
7 min readMay 28, 2020


Fill the Walls with Hope. Rage, Resources and Dreams. Photo by Mark Strandquist.

Although philanthropy is not known for transparency, it is one of our guiding principles at Independence Public Media Foundation. It is essential to building trust in the work we do, and to being held accountable.

At the beginning of April, we published a statement about how we intended to respond to the Covid-19 crisis, and we promised to publicly share information about what we’re working on and what we’re supporting.

Today, I’m happy to offer some updates on grants we’ve made to date, and what we’ve been working on over the past two months, including details of a new grant opportunity for organizations in the Philadelphia region.

First, what we’ve supported so far:


“Make trustworthy news and information, translated in multiple languages and provided in a variety of formats, available and easily accessible to people across the region, with a special emphasis on understanding and fulfilling the ongoing and evolving information needs of our most vulnerable communities in the region.”

Action Taken:

In March, we partnered with the Lenfest Institute for Journalism to launch the Philadelphia Covid-19 Community Information Fund because we believe that trustworthy information must be at the heart of helping people navigate this crisis. We contributed $1.5 million to the $2.5 million fund, with $1 million of that helping to launch Resolve Philadelphia’s large-scale Equally Informed initiative.

This project coordinates collaboration between more than 20 newsrooms, as well as working with public health experts, local elected officials, nonprofits and others to get urgent, relevant, culturally competent information, translated into multiple languages, deep into communities. They have also made available to the public a text-messaging service so that anyone can ask any questions about living and working in Philadelphia and get well-researched, fact-based answers.

Equally Informed builds on Resolve’s impressive and inspiring body of work fostering deeper collaboration among journalists across the region, building trust with mis- and underrepresented communities, and elevating community voices and community solutions.

From the Equally Informed Initiative’s multi-cultural Covid-19 toolkit

The other $500,000 we contributed to the Philadelphia Covid-19 Community Information Fund supported an open call for proposals for “Philadelphia-area media and other community organizations as they work to meet the news and information needs of Philadelphia’s diverse and marginalized communities that leads to informed decision-making and resiliency both at this time of acute need and for the long-term.” Those proposals are now being reviewed, and Lenfest will be announcing those grants in June.


“Invest in the long-term resilience of community-centered communications infrastructure, such as community access media and low power FM radio.”

Action Taken:

In partnership with the Center for International Media Action and Prometheus Radio Project, we committed $198,000 to support the region’s community radio stations. Specifically this grant supports the five low-power FM stations in Philadelphia, 2 online radio stations, and 3 additional low-power stations in the region. These funds will provide technical improvements and training, hyper-local programming, and peer-to-peer learning between the stations.

We see this as an important first investment in the long-term resiliency of community-powered radio, and we will continue to look at opportunities more broadly to invest in community-owned media and communications infrastructure.


“Provide support for equipment, online services, and digital literacy training for grassroots community organizing for racial, social, and economic justice in the Philadelphia region.”

Action Taken:

IPMF contributed $100,000 in support of Bread & Roses Community Fund’s Solidarity Fund for Covid-19 Organizing to help grassroots groups quickly access up to $10,000 as they organize for a just and humane recovery from the Covid-19 crisis. These funds are urgently needed now, and they double as investments in strengthening grassroots groups’ ability to move their organizing online, many of which were not equipped to do so before the pandemic hit.

We are grateful to Bread & Roses for making sure grassroots groups can continue to fight on the frontlines and aren’t being left out of funding opportunities in this moment.

The Solidarity Fund stays true to Bread & Roses’ process: a community panel reviews the applications and makes the decisions. The Fund is even able to make some grants to new groups who aren’t yet 501(c)3 or fiscally-sponsored organizations.

At the end of 2019, IPMF made a grant of $800,000 to Bread & Roses in anticipation of future collaborations. The $100,000 in support of the Solidarity Fund came from that $800,000 and is not new funding from our corpus.


“We gave all of our grantees, including those with multi-year project grants, the option to convert their grants to operating support, and we are encouraging them to share any emergency needs and requests they have. We also eliminated their interim reporting requirements, and assured them not to worry about changes to the timelines and deliverables of their original grant agreements. When they are ready and able to return to their projects, we will be there to support them.”

Action Taken:

We have since provided an additional $770,000 in emergency support to our grantees ranging from $10,000 to $80,000. Although we did ask about half of them to fill out a brief survey to let us know how they’re doing, we did not require any paperwork to receive these grants.

We are also committed to understanding our grantees’ shifting needs, including what services, training, and other support we might be able to offer them.

To that end, one step we are taking is hiring MING (Media in Neighborhood Group) to create videos in partnership with a handful of our grantees, helping them document their work and tell stories of the deep challenges in their communities posed by the intersectional issues of race, class, gender, age, and geography, among others, all exacerbated by Covid-19.

We believe that communications is critical to making nonprofits’ work visible and valued, but that it is also severely underfunded and underappreciated.

MING Media


“Remain open and agile this year to new opportunities, creative ideas, and community needs.”

Action Taken:

When we shared our intentions, we acknowledged that we didn’t have an open application process in place but committed to make ourselves as accessible as possible, and we invited people to contact us with questions and ideas. A few organizations did, and we made some grants as a result, including providing Chromebooks for Philadelphia students, supporting local women filmmakers of color, and efforts to amplify voices of people with disabilities impacted by Covid-19.

Sisters in Film & Television Media

We continually wrestle with how not to perpetuate a system of inequitable access to capital in which those who have the know-how and connections to ask for funding are the ones who receive it. Which brings me, finally, to the announcement IPMF is making today:


“Support journalists, artists, and nonprofits to galvanize community media making and storytelling during this crisis. We want to help people, especially those hardest hit by the pandemic, feel visible and heard by funders, policy makers, and others with power and authority. We also want to encourage creative expression, fostering understanding, and connecting with others in this time of physical distancing.”

Action Taken:

Today we are delighted to share the news of a new $750,000 Community Voices Fund, specifically designed to elevate community voices and community solutions to the structural inequality being laid bare by the pandemic.

This is an open call to non-profits and fiscally-sponsored organizations in Philadelphia and the surrounding region (including New Jersey and Delaware) to apply for their ideas and projects that document, share, and preserve people’s experiences and stories, foster community connections through creative media making, and strengthen community-owned and community-led media. You can read the full details of the announcement on our website, and see examples of projects that have inspired our thinking about the Fund. The application will open next week (June 4, 2020), and we will be reviewing your submissions on a weekly basis.

Naturally, as we make grants, we will announce them and add them to our website, as we have with all of the grants we’ve made in 2020 to date — just over $2.9 million so far, including the grant to Bread & Roses’ Solidarity Fund.

We continue to encourage you to contact us with your ideas and questions, and to tell us about organizations whose work we should know about. And we reiterate our pledge to remain open and agile this year to new opportunities, creative ideas, and community needs.

Our hearts are with you all as we struggle to navigate this pandemic, grieve those who have died, and fight for a just recovery.

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Read more about the story behind Independence Public Media Foundation. We are committed to sharing our processes, decisions, and learning publicly.