In the midst of COVID-19 shutdowns, SVP Denver partners sprang to action to address an immediate need. Efforts to create the Left Behind Workers Fund (LBWF) began on March 26, raising more than $225,000 in the first 23 days of the initiative.

More than tens of thousands of hospitality workers, restaurant staff, laborers and other critical members of our economy in Colorado can’t receive stimulus checks. These are workers in our community who have lost their jobs due to COVID-19, yet many are not eligible for unemployment benefits and have almost no access to federal government services. They have been left behind by the system.

A collaboration between SVP Denver, Impact Charitable and Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition and Village Exchange Center, LBWF distributes cash grants to individuals and families across the state, and leaders are seeking to grow this fund rapidly to serve thousands more people in need.

With the goal of empowering people to address their most pressing needs such as food, rent, utility bills, healthcare and transportation, the fund makes one-time grants of $1,000 to those impacted by the pandemic. Village Exchange Center (VEC), a capacity-building investee of SVP Denver, functions as the main point of contact, with organizations across the state being added as screening partners as the program grows.

Within six weeks of the first donation to the Left Behind Workers Fund, grants had been distributed to 230 people across Colorado during the pilot phase, and that number continues to grow. This early success demonstrated proof of concept, attracting additional partners and resulting in additional donations and pledges of $2.5 million and growing interest from all sectors of the Denver community. The ultimate goal is to make 10,000 individual grants.

 “Getting the Left Behind Workers Fund systems up and running for distributing dollars directly to the community could not have ever happened this fast, nor to the scale it did, without the SVP team,” says Blaurock.

SVP Denver partners have provided support on key pieces of the project. In the area of fund distribution, they determined how to efficiently and effectively deliver funds to individuals living across the state, including those with and without bank accounts. They conducted extensive background research and due diligence, contacted banks and related organizations, established requirements and restrictions for fund distribution, and considered financial auditing requirements for VEC.

In the area of data flow, they created processes to appropriately collect and share required information between partners who were screening applicants and partners who were distributing funds. That included recommendations on screening/eligibility criteria and language used to assess those criteria, due diligence and background research on data protection requirements and ensuring appropriate protections and consent procedures, as well as purchasing of software systems to support the initiative.

By the end of May, SVP Denver partners had contributed more than 300 hours of professional consultation, equating to more than $42,600, and growing, in human capital investment.

SVP Denver partners continue to support the fund, shifting their focus from the pilot phase to expansion. This includes setting up and thoroughly testing processes to scale, such as creating systems that would allow multiple nonprofit organizations to screen, identifying eligible applicants and distributing thousands of grants, with the ultimate goal of serving as many Coloradans as possible.

“Working with SVP is like having a team of CEOs,” Blaurock says. “They are building our capacity through the assistance of people who are brilliant, capable and efficient. At the same time, everyone is collaborative and humble, always asking how they can help.”

Through the Left Behind Workers Fund and related projects with VEC, SVP Denver partners had an immediate impact mere days and weeks after the COVID-19 pandemic hit. This illustrates the power of collaboration our partners are known for: bringing together financial capital, human capital, capacity-building and engaged philanthropy to better the Denver community.