Yet we want to do more than just stay the course, especially in our own communities, whose populations were among the earliest victims of COVID-19. To that end, our board has approved putting $10 million into Bay Area relief efforts. We believe funds on this scale can meaningfully impact our local communities, particularly given a broader regional effort being organized by the Bay Area’s community foundations that will bring together government, industry, and philanthropy to assist households in need, local nonprofits, and other struggling institutions. Giving to these local efforts is also consistent with the foundation’s longstanding commitment to the Bay Area — our home, and the place whose distinctive culture and people made the foundation’s existence possible in the first place.
As the health crisis worsens and unemployment claims skyrocket, the unfortunate, humbling, but also inescapable fact is that we have neither the knowledge nor the resources to do something similar on a broader scale. Need of this magnitude — even within just the nonprofit sector — requires action from government, whose toolkit and capacity to provide support dwarfs ours. It was for just such a day that we have long been investors in the charitable sector’s infrastructure, and we are supportive and grateful for organizations like Independent Sector, whose efforts have ensured that the massive federal relief act passed last week did not overlook the nonprofit sector and its vital role in the broader community. We are committed to supporting such advocacy efforts on behalf of the sector, as well as to helping our nonprofit partners access and put to use funds made available by the CARES Act.
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Following the usual form for these missives, this is where I step back and say something inspiring about how we’ll get through it if we keep our heads, work together, and act with kindness and empathy. And I think that’s right, because we will get through this if we do those things. But the moment calls for an eloquence that, I fear, is beyond me. So, instead, I’ll quote someone else: America’s most astute expositor and critic, Alexis de Tocqueville. After writing about the unruliness of American society, Tocqueville famously observed:
The perpetual change which goes on in the United States, these frequent vicissitudes of fortune, these unforeseen fluctuations in private and public wealth, serve to keep the minds of the people in a perpetual feverish agitation, which admirably invigorates their exertions and keeps them, so to speak, above the ordinary level of humanity. The whole life of an American is passed like a game of chance, a revolutionary crisis, or a battle.
As always, Tocqueville is spot on — except the moment we are in has elements of all three states: of chance, of crisis, and of battle. His point, though, is that we are built to handle this kind of moment — and not just Americans, of course. People everywhere have the capacity to find hope and step up to the challenges of the moment. If, that is, we can find it within ourselves to be our best selves.
I am proud to represent the Hewlett Foundation at this moment, to speak for our board and staff in saying that we remain dedicated to your missions, your work, and the good you create in our world. And that we are eager to work alongside you and do what we can to help in the weeks and months ahead.
William and Flora Hewlett Foundation