By Collin Lessing, JVA Consulting
Last week, the Aurora movie theater shooting returned to national headlines as victims from the tragic event voiced concerns and frustrations about how funds gathered from donations were being distributed. The story of the Aurora shooting is one that strikes deeply at our emotions both locally in Colorado and nationally, and the reactions from many community members regarding recent stories have been indicative of that reality. Community First Foundation, the administrator of the Aurora Victim Relief Fund, has been working to answer questions, address concerns and clear up any confusion regarding how funds from donations are being distributed.
At JVA, we recognize how complex and challenging it is to operate in this context, and we are thankful that Community First Foundation is committed to providing support to Colorado residents in these times of great need. Below are some of the steps we’ve observed that Community First Foundation has taken to offer clarity and transparency to the community and engage the victims and their families in the distribution process.
Community First Foundation posted common questions about the distribution process on its website. FAQs can be read here. Important items to note:
- Community First Foundation is not taking any administration fees to manage the fund.
- The Fund does not make grants directly to individuals, but to nonprofit organizations offering assistance to individuals.
- Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance (COVA) has agreed to accept grants from the Aurora Victim Relief Fund with the commitment that all of the grant dollars will go directly to victims and their families in the form of direct support, such as cash, paid bills and requested services.
- COVA is not taking a fee for staff or overhead.
Some might wonder why Community First Foundation doesn’t make grants directly to individuals. According to the FAQs, the Foundation is leveraging experts in victim assistance, medical treatment, mental health and other needs brought on by the tragedy. Working through established nonprofits provides the benefits of necessary expertise, case management and added accountability.
Next steps are in motion
On Friday August 31, families of the victims of the shooting met with the 7/20 Recovery Committee to discuss the distribution process and how families and victims can be better represented on the committee. The 7/20 Recovery Committee is the body that is making recommendations regarding the funds, services and goods donated by individuals and businesses, and is made up of volunteers from a variety of nonprofit service providers, community foundations, government entities and community organizations. You can read more about the 7/20 Recovery Committee in Community First Foundation’s FAQs.
A second meeting was held on September 5, and a third meeting took place between the 7/20 Recovery Committee and approximately 20 victims and their families, as well as representatives from COVA, the Aurora Police Department, Victim Compensation and Aurora Mental Health on September 8. Participants had the opportunity to get information from and pose questions to all of the representatives. The meeting also allowed participants to continue to give input regarding their needs and the distribution process.
On Nonprofit Street, we will continue to watch as Community First Foundation and the 7/20 Recovery Committee navigate this complicated process of needs assessment, input gathering and fund distribution. Like many, we are interested and eager to see the outcomes of the process and will continue to share our thoughts.