The president and CEO of the Columbus Foundation has seen record gift-giving since the pandemic set in.

During the first half of this year, the Columbus Foundation received the highest total gifts in its history, says Doug Kridler, president and CEO. People “want to be generous, they want to do something,” he says. 

With the pandemic looming, in early March Kridler proposed creating an emergency response fund, an idea vetted by his staff and approved by the foundation’s governing committee. Since its creation, the fund has distributed $5 million to local nonprofits, helping them keep their doors open so they in turn can serve the Columbus community. Well over half of this $5 million came from Columbus Foundation donors, people and companies who trust the foundation’s due diligence around nonprofits. 

The last six months have tested business leaders like no time in memory. Here are stories of how nine Columbus region CEOs are handling the pandemic.

“From March through May, the biggest percentage [of giving] so far is housing relief,” Kridler says. Speed in grant-giving was key. Nonprofits could quickly apply for grants via the foundation’s website, and the foundation approved and paid grants twice weekly. 

Early on, the Columbus Foundation also worked to secure personal protective equipment for nonprofits and human service organizations. It supported Middle West Spirits’ transition from making vodka to hand sanitizer, it received 1 million units of liquid soap from L Brands and Bath and Body Works, and managed to secure 100,000 KN95 masks from China. 

More recently, the foundation allocated another $2.5 million to the fund. 

Stay up to date with the region’s dynamic business scene. Subscribe to Columbus CEO’s weekly newsletter.

In a leap of faith, the foundation also decided to go ahead with its June 10 fundraising event called the Big Give, even though many assumed that anxiety around the markets and the pandemic would keep people from giving. “There was no optimism,” Kridler says, although ultimately it was decided that any money raised would help. 

Expectations were shattered. “It was an 81 percent increase over the last time,” Kridler says. The Big Give raised $32 million. 

Amy Braunschweiger is a freelance writer for Columbus CEO.