Clowes Fund uses principal to award COVID-19 Relief Grants

Monday, July 20, 2020

The Clowes Fund announced its grantmaking response to the economic and human services crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Fund will double its grantmaking commitment by spending an additional five-percent more than its typical grantmaking through a $3.2 million draw from the corpus of its endowment in 2020 to support grantmaking in 2020 and in 2021.

According to Beth Casselman, the foundation’s executive director, The Clowes Fund board recognizes that this is an exceptional crisis that requires an exceptional response. She said that the board approved spending an additional $2 million in 2020 and reserved $1.2 million to supplement grantmaking in 2021.

Edith Bowles, Clowes Fund vice president, said that it is entirely possible to respond exceptionally without unduly damaging the long-term fiscal health of the foundation. She said, “Failure to respond in an exceptional manner would likely cause the Fund board and staff to look back with regret.”

The additional grantmaking includes two rounds of unsolicited emergency grants in 2020 and supplemental funding for the foundation’s regular competitive grants budget in 2020 and 2021. The reserve for 2021 is in recognition that the increased need for services will continue next year while Fund assets may be depressed.

In July the Fund awarded the larger of its two rounds of emergency grants for a total of $1,375,000 to 22 organizations that work with immigrants and refugees as well as workforce development, especially direct employment. New England grants range from $100,000 to Maine Initiatives for the Immigrant-Led Organizations Fund to $50,000 to Massachusetts Jobs with Justice for the MassUndocuFund.

The Clowes Fund awarded its first round of 21 small emergency grants in May, mostly in the range of $10,000 for a total of $220,000. The first round was directed primarily to food banks, such as Good Shepherd Food Bank of Maine and select other front-line organizations, especially those that support immigrants and other populations who may not be eligible for other types of relief funding, such as the Women’s Fund of Southeastern Massachusetts, a fund of the Community Foundation of Southeastern MA.

In addition, in 2020, the Clowes Fund board decided to approve all worthy competitive requests, most at the requested amount, even though the total amount exceeded the planned budget by nearly $400,000. Furthermore, Casselman said that most grants were awarded as unrestricted rather than restricted to the proposed program or project because the pandemic likely will alter proposed plans and outcomes.

Samuel Clowes Huneke, board secretary, said that board leadership agreed that any exceptional draw on corpus should be limited to 2020, in order to maintain budgeting aligned with the Fund’s long-term goals. However, according to Huneke, Fund staff presented concerns that the combination of the foundation’s multi-year grant commitments and continued economic crisis would significantly constrain 2021 grantmaking.

“Ultimately, the board unanimously approved both the budgeting and grantmaking components of The Clowes Fund COVID-19 plan,” said Huneke. “We hope other foundations will join us in awarding grants from principal during this crisis which is unprecedented in our lifetimes,” he said.

The Clowes Fund is a family foundation based in Indianapolis that has awarded more than $125 million in grants to qualified charitable organizations since 1952.  Currently, the Fund’s grantmaking is focused within two geographic regions – New England including parts of Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire, and Indianapolis, Indiana – for immigrant services and workforce development in both regions, plus education including arts education in New England.

A list of The Clowes Fund’s two rounds of emergency grants is attached. For more information, visit

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