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From the CEO: Working together for a way forward

Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation K logo

Our mission remains as we find our way through this challenging time.

I join my colleagues in the nonprofit sector asking policymakers at all levels to focus on the organizations that are helping the people most in need during the COVID-19 global pandemic.

At the Kauffman Foundation, we work with communities in education and entrepreneurship to increase opportunities that allow all people to learn, to take risks, and to own their success.

Yet, I fully realize that kind of aspirational notion might be difficult to embrace right now.

With that in mind, I’m going to lean on one of my favorite quotes from Teddy Roosevelt, “Do what you can, with what you have, from where you are.”

In the short term, on a very practical level, here’s what that means for the Kauffman Foundation:

  • Our grantmaking continues, and we have plans in place to ensure we can pay our grantees with minimal disruption.
  • We are working with our colleagues in philanthropy to evaluate the government response to the disaster and see where our Foundation and others can add value in supporting our community.
  • We stand by our grantees and are ready to be flexible with grant agreements. We know that our grantees’ focus must be on its organization and the people they serve.
  • We will honor all existing sponsorships, recognizing that events may get postponed. 

Like our peers, we take public health very seriously. Our staff is working remotely, and our conference center is adhering to local guidance on gatherings.This week, we’ve watched organizations like 1 Million Cups, which thrive on weekly in-person events, adapt with some virtual events to continue to support communities of entrepreneurs. It’s been wonderful, and not-at-all surprising, to see innovative small distilleries and others quickly switch up production to distribute hand sanitizer. The Kauffman School and many districts around our metropolitan area are using buses to deliver breakfast and lunch to students. And it’s been amazing how educators, parents and caregivers have risen to the challenge of keeping students learning, engaged, and cared for even if school is remote. (Kauffman associates started a #CoworkingWithKids channel on Slack to provide each other support.)

These things bring me hope, but as we think about the next several weeks and beyond, there is a lot of uncertainty. I’m often reminded that in a crisis what is urgent today will look different a week from now. We take our ability to be a steady hand in these times seriously and look to fill gaps for the short- and long-term.

The bottom line is that the Kauffman Foundation remains committed to our current grantmaking approach and strategies.

The funding we provide in our region’s most disinvested areas will continue as we seek to help individuals build wealth and close race and income gaps. These programs range from vital early education and after school programs, to college success programs, to local entrepreneur support organizations.

We will also continue our work to help students develop the skills throughout life to make or take a job. That work support students, teachers, and families across a broad range of programs including Real World Learning, Kauffman Scholars, Kansas City Scholars, and SkilledKC.

And, finally, we’re working aggressively to get the entrepreneur-focused economic development approach accepted and in place around the country. This is most evident in our work related to America’s New Business Plan, as well as in our research.  To be clear, entrepreneurship is not just about big names and billionaires. It’s about everyday Americans — from the man who starts the neighborhood ice cream shop to the woman launching an agriculture technology startup — having the opportunity to support themselves and their families and improve their communities.

We believe our long-term strategy is a pathway to a stronger and more inclusive community-based economy. Even in these turbulent times, we must and will continue that work.