By: Alex Eaton
Note: The opinions expressed are those of the author alone and do not reflect an institutional position of the Gardner Institute. We hope the opinions shared contribute to the marketplace of ideas and help people as they formulate their own INFORMED DECISIONS™.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is one of the largest refugee crises since World War II, and has had a devastating human impact. In Utah, this invasion was met with a tremendous outpouring of support for the millions of Ukrainians displaced, through the power and dynamism of collective philanthropy.
The goal of the Utah for Ukraine Fund at the Community Foundation of Utah was to provide immediate, short-term relief for refugees fleeing Ukraine. The Fund raised over $4 million in six weeks through March and April of 2022. This effort was not an isolated moment of generosity as Utah, home to over 1,500 Ukrainian neighbors, has a long tradition of supporting and welcoming refugees in need.
With the leadership of Larry H. Miller Company and the Larry H. & Gail Miller Family Foundation spearheading $2 million in matching funds, over 3,600 donors contributed to the Utah for Ukraine Fund. Donations ranged from larger contributions to those raised from lemonade stands and communities coming together to provide relief. This community groundswell in a time of need is just one of many examples of Utahns’ long history of generosity and compassion.
Informed by international crisis experts and humanitarian aid practitioners, the Utah for Ukraine Fund Advisory Committee identified specific populations and interventions for grant recommendations. These efforts were focused on aid resources for refugee youth, unaccompanied minors, and female headed households. To provide the most immediate impact, the Advisory Committee also set a direction for interventions around education, shelter, psychosocial support, and direct cash assistance.
In 2022, the Utah for Ukraine Fund distributed nearly $4 million in grants to the following organizations:
Catholic Relief Services (CRS) provided housing to hundreds of households in Bulgaria and Moldova. Bulgaria currently hosts over 94,000 refugees and the vast majority of refugees are women, with 40% being children. Finding long-term shelter is a significant need, where approximately 18,000 highly vulnerable refugees need safe accommodation. CRS also partnered with local organizations to support 1,500 children to access sustained educational support and psychosocial assistance.
UNICEF and local partners provided services through designated safe spaces known as Blue Dot Hubs that provide children and families with critical information and services across Poland, Moldova, Romania, Belarus, Hungary, Slovak Republic and Italy. These hubs rely on the close support and partnership of local governments and agencies to reach thousands of children and families on the move.
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) received funding to expand established partnerships with selected local organizations to meet the protection needs for vulnerable households—especially female-headed households and unaccompanied children—and the rural communities supporting them in Moldova. At the time of funding, Moldova had accepted refugees equivalent to a 17% increase in its population.
The Utah for Ukraine Fund was highly innovative with its emphasis on collaboration, responsiveness, and flexibility. From our partners at UNICEF and IRC, we learned that Utah was the only state, and the Community Foundation of Utah the only community foundation, to organize such a collective, statewide funding effort to provide Ukrainian refugee aid.
We are grateful to the Advisory Committee of community leaders, philanthropists, and subject matter experts for their generosity and guidance:
- First Lady Abby Cox, Show Up Utah
- Alex Eaton, Community Foundation of Utah
- Natalie El-Deiry, Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity
- Brilliant Miller, Larry H. & Gail Miller Family Foundation
- Julie Ramos, Larry H. & Gail Miller Family Foundation
- Karen Williams, Larry H. & Gail Miller Family Foundation
Global philanthropy’s impact and response to the invasion of Ukraine will be better understood and measured with the passage of time. However, one early point is clear: the power of Utah’s philanthropic community to come together in a time of need is a true testament to the collective power of philanthropy in our state.
Alex Eaton is the Chief Executive Office of the Community Foundation of Utah.