Beth Alexander’s head and heart reside in the nonprofit sector. Over the past thirty years, she has raised funds and served in leadership for local, regional and national nonprofits, and has covered charitable initiatives activities as editor of a Nashville magazine with a focus on local nonprofit events. She is a professional fundraiser and freelance writer who believes in the serious business of making sure everyone has access to joy and laughter.
“Relentlessly Resilient,” the title of the Clara Lionel Foundation, is a reflection of the boundless energy and fighting spirit of its founder, Robin “Rihanna” Fenty, one of a handful of visionaries making enormous impact on a world with infinite needs. Especially during a global pandemic whose threat still looms.
The Foundation’s well-researched work is borne of a mission to address critical needs by working with local partners to address gaps collaboratively. It is distinguished by quick, concrete responses to community and systemic problems, both micro and macro. Although the Foundation is only nine years old, its impact has been immeasurable, reaching populations in great need, especially after the pandemic struck. Its quick expansion of grants, gifts and services represents a maturing of its purpose.
According to its 2020 Annual Report, the CLF invested $47 million focusing on climate resilience, education, racial justice and Covid-19 response efforts through 60 grantee partners in more than 35 countries and all 50 states. Five million was given to Covid-19 rapid response efforts in the U.S. and across the globe, focusing on serving at-risk communities and the elderly in the U.S and to promote virus testing and care in countries like Haiti and Malawi, as well as mobilizing resources and support for Native communities.
Photo Credit- Courtesy CLF
On a micro level, feeding, housing and providing human service care to thousands of youth and children, families and individuals, The Clara Lionel Foundation donated PPE to the city of New York, donated $4.2 million to shelter, meals, and counseling for individuals and their children suffering from domestic violence, and fed 6.6 million people through the expansion and support of programs with, among many others, the Greater Chicago Food Depository which created pop-up distribution centers in areas that had no sources of consistent, healthy food.
As a domestic abuse survivor herself, Rihanna has a heart for all these people, her people, seeing and knowing the pain of others regardless of the situation because of the lessons of her family: “Give. Give more than you have,” she said on Twitter last year.
A shared vision to win rights, recognition and resources for all Black people inspired a partnership with CLF to support the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL), a broad coalition of more than 50 like-minded organizations in support of its policies, advocacy, grant-making, capacity- and movement-building efforts at this critical time.
CLF is transforming education programs for girls in Malawi, Barbados (Rihanna’s birthplace), Senegal, the U.S. and elsewhere, blazing new pathways where young women and girls can thrive through professional development and health safety, including reproductive care, as they transition into higher education or careers.
Feeding, housing, educating and caring for thousands of individuals is necessary, lifesaving work. As Covid-19 struck the Caribbean Island communities in devastating ways, the Foundation worked alongside the government of Barbados to provide 30 ventilators for the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, and coordinated the delivery of 4,000 tablets to students isolated by the pandemic with the island’s Ministry of Education.
Yes—the Foundation is reaching and addressing individual needs broadly.
Photo Credit- Courtesy CLF
The Foundation’s pivot to infrastructure disaster prevention in 2018 opens the door to finely honed strategic direction. The research could not have been more timely. Hurricanes like 2005’s Katrina strike marginalized populations disproportionately; they continue to suffer and bear the brunt of inequities of every kind around the world. In the face of injustice, climate change, health disparities and economic disparities, CLF hears an urgent battle cry.
Many well-meaning funders rush to provide funds to rebuild devastated areas after hurricanes that destroy lives, landscape and buildings. These responses often lead to wasted resources and less than efficient coordination. The Foundation asked why not work to strengthen critical infrastructure before disaster strikes? Their collaborative model, proven effective across the globe, helps ensure that vital services like reproductive health clinics and shelters can withstand tragic weather events.
In part a reaction to this and the climate’s worsening hurricane record since then, the CLF has invested $25 million in an ambitious, five-year climate resilience and emergency response initiative to increase resilience to climate hazards in the Caribbean. Partnering with Planned Parenthood Federation/Western Hemisphere Region and Engineers Without Borders, the goal is to transform the Caribbean into the world’s first climate resilient zone based on a new model that can be replicated and scaled to enable other high-risk regions to withstand extreme weather events.
The vision is that CLF will be a driving force for strategies bolstered by policies that promote best practices of sustainability and emergency response.