Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust Gives Almost $28 Million in 2020, Exceeding Traditional Grantmaking

Posted By on December 8, 2020
From TheaterWorks’ Curiouser & Curiouser production; photo by Josiah Duke Photography

The Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust has awarded $27.7 million in grants with most of the giving in response to the COVID-19 pandemic – a giving level far surpassing previous years.

Since January 2020, the Trust has awarded $27,740,432 in total grantmaking — with $24,373,750 of these funds being grants initiated by the Trust to support nonprofits due to the COVID-19 crisis. Typically, the Trust’s annual grantmaking is between $20 million and $22 million.

For the first time in its 20-year history, Trustees support dipping into Piper Trust’s endowment to help meet more need. And, the Trust designated its COVID-19 emergency response grants as unrestricted, meaning grantees had discretion and flexibility to use the funds however they needed.

The Trust’s leadership said they made a commitment to being even more intentional and strategic in incorporating diversity, equity and inclusion in grantmaking decisions.

“Our Trustees see how nonprofits are adapting and working differently to meet the challenges of the pandemic and believe the Trust must as well,” said Mary Jane Rynd, president and CEO of Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust. “We are inspired by the drive and determination of our nonprofit community, always, but particularly this year. The Trust will continue to listen to what the community needs as we work together to make it to the other side of this health and social crisis.”

In October and November, Piper Trust awarded $7.3 million in unrestricted COVID-19 emergency response grants to nonprofits in the human services and arts and culture sectors. The Trust cited new efforts by nonprofits such as one•n•ten and TheaterWorks that hold great promise for helping individuals and families long after the coronavirus pandemic ends.

In the spring, a $20,000 Piper Trust emergency response grant became the seed money for a new one•n•ten COVID-19 emergency relief fund that grew to nearly $90,000. This new program fund helped one•n•ten, a nonprofit that serves LGBTQ youth and young adults, support individuals struggling with housing, food insecurity, and utility payments.

“The grant enabled us to very quickly assist our youth in a way that was dramatic and critical for them,” said Nate Rhoton, CEO of one•n•ten. “Because we were able to say that Piper Trust had contributed to this and helped us launch (the emergency fund), I think it really added a level of credibility, as well as showcased the need. Donors were very responsive to it after that.”

Because of its success in assisting members through tough times during the pandemic, one•n•ten plans to continue offering emergency help as part of its regular array of services when the public health crisis ends.

For TheaterWorks, an early-COVID-19 response grant from Piper Trust gave the nonprofit based in Peoria room to breathe and think creatively about how to address long-term disruption to its live performance calendar.

“Piper Trust’s willingness to support TheaterWorks with unrestricted grant funds is such a hopeful signal that we matter—that arts and culture has a role in helping all of us get through this disruptive time,” said Cate Hinkle, managing director at TheaterWorks.

TheaterWorks introduced immersive theater as an innovative way to continue its mission and provide cultural enrichment. Its production of “Curiouser & Curiouser” took audiences inside the world of “Alice in Wonderland” at the Peoria Center for the Performing Arts, which was entirely reconfigured to allow live theater to occur safely with social distancing in place for actors and audience members. The sold-out, extended run inspired the current production of “Curiouser Nutcracker.”

Piper Trust’s October and November grants — totaling more than $7.3 million — focus on investments in arts and culture and human service organizations, with a priority to award funds to those serving children, youth, and marginalized communities. The ripple effects of the pandemic coupled with various socioeconomic issues have put enormous stress on children and families.

“Youth-focused nonprofits across all sectors — human services, arts and culture, faith-based, etc. — play a critical role in fostering health and well-being as we navigate the months ahead. Piper Trust feels strongly about its role to proactively invest in these nonprofits as they have such a heavy lift on their shoulders,” Rynd said.

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