“Act Locally” is a program of Polish-American Freedom Foundation launched in 2000, and managed by the Academy for the Development of Philanthropy in Poland in cooperation with the Network of 77 Act Locally Centers. Each year ALCs carry out competitions for grants that support civic projects to be implemented by active local communities and which relate to such areas as: culture and tradition, education, health, ecology, tourism and improvement of the region attractiveness, or counteracting social exclusion. Thanks to cooperation with the Network of Act Locally Centers for over 20 years we have managed to support more than 11,500 local projects with a total amount of almost PLN 47 million, involve 220,000 volunteers and build the environment of active citizens, initiatives and organizations. Therefore now, at the time of pandemic, we are open to initiatives that counteract negative effects of it. All funds earmarked for local grant competitions in 2020 have been redirected for institutional support.
“Act Locally Centers are NGOs that are the driving force for smaller organizations. They carry out grant competitions to support local grassroot civic projects responding to real needs of communities in their region. It’s a huge capital that is worth supporting especially now, at the time of world-wide crisis. Therefore we have launched a Crisis Support Package under the program, a part of which is the Institutional Support Fund for Act Locally Centers that will help them cover their most urgent expenses necessary for their further effective functioning,” Program Director of Polish-American Freedom Foundation Joanna Lempart says. The objective of the Fund is to support ALCs so that they can survive the time of epidemic and adjust their activities to the new situation.
“We have 20 years of experience in cooperating with our local partners in building social capital, in supporting and animating social activity based on such values as courage to act and social solidarity. It is an opportunity worth seizing,” President of the Academy for the Development of Philanthropy in Poland Paweł Łukasiak notes.
Each ALC could apply for a grant of PLN 7,000 from the Fund. 31 grants worth a total of PLN 210,000 have been awarded.
The epidemic has had especially strong impact on NGOs operating in small towns and villages. Many of such organizations had to limit their activity but at the same time new initiatives and support networks are being established thanks to efforts of local leaders, animators and activists. Challenges faced by Act Locally Centers include the necessity to postpone various local grant competitions which are a potential source of funds for ongoing operations of an organization. Also those entities that carry out paid statutory or business activity are in difficult situation. Such services as education, care taking, training or consulting have been suspended or significantly limited. ALCs that make their living from office and conference space rental or offering accommodation have also lost their income. On top of that many of their donors – including local governments and businessmen – have stopped supporting NGOs as they expect to have financial problems themselves. There is also an issue of the necessity to swit to working remotely, especially when an ALC does not have enough functional computers.
The applications submitted to the Institutional Support Fund for Act Locally Centers show that ALCs have been facing many adversities recently. Nevertheless they keep looking for new solutions that will allow them to improve their standing and organizing various actions to support the others. They are sewing masks, printing visors, carrying out crowdfunding campaigns to buy equipment for local hospitals. They are delivering protective equipment to medics and staff of welfare centers, and to seniors. Some organizations are offering support to children from low-income families – such as food or equipment for distance learning.
“ALCs that have lost their basic sources of income have applied for grants that would allow them pay rent and other operational costs such as office maintenance, employee salaries, accounting services costs. It also turned out that an urgent need was buying hardware and software necessary for distance working. Furthermore, grants were awarded for buying material to sew masks, as well as protective equipment for employees and volunteers,” Paweł Łukasiak explains.
Grants awarded from the Fund shall make it easier for Act Locally Centers to survive the time of epidemic and adjust their activities to the new situation so that they can keep supporting residents in their regions.