Elks Always Care: Looking Back on the CIP Grant Year

As the 2021 grant year opened on April 1, 2020, nothing was as it was even a month earlier. Due to COVID-19, many organizations had to shift their programming, and the CIP was no different. The Community Investments Program increased grant flexibility and streamlined available grants in the 2020-21 grant year. In total, more than 4,000 grants—totaling nearly $11.5 million—were approved to support Elks communities across the country. More than ever before, the CIP encouraged Lodges to make direct donations to organizations providing COVID relief, and the Elks responded by donating millions of dollars to food pantries, homeless shelters, and other local assistance programs.

Gratitude Grants ranging from $2,000 to $3,000 were the first grant component to open on April 1. The CIP approved 1,312 Gratitude Grants, the highest amount in the three years. Unlike years past, the CIP encouraged Lodges to use their Gratitude Grants to make direct donations to organizations in need in the community, instead of encouraging in person projects. For instance, Frankfort, Kentucky, Lodge No. 530 switched from their annual in-person projects that they do to serve students and seniors in need, to a direct donation to a food pantry that serves families in need in their area. The Lodge noted that this was due to COVID, and the Lodge felt a responsibility to help where they were needed. The Lodge wrote that even with the current hardships, the Lodge “loves to make a difference in our community”. While a donation may be less hands-on, the difference that donations to high needs organizations like food pantries make in people’s lives is astronomical.

The Spotlight Grant came next, opening on June 1. The $2,000 Spotlight Grant had added flexibility this year, as well. Lodges could select from one of the six pre-determined projects to shine a spotlight on veterans’ homelessness or family literacy, or they could use the funds for direct COVID relief in the form of an active project or a donation. New this year, for added flexibility, a Lodge could also choose to merge its Spotlight Grant with its Beacon Grant, for a $5,500 Beacon Grant project. While many Lodges opted to donate to COVID relief organizations in their communities or merge with their Beacon Grant, some Lodges chose to choose one of the pre-determined Spotlight Grant projects, and were able to carry them out safely.

Santa Barbara, Calif., Lodge No. 613 chose a pre-determined project, the Stand Down event. The Lodge chose to partner with their local organizations to put on a Stand Down event together, and the Lodge decided to provide hygiene kits for veterans experiencing homelessness. The Lodge has been helping with their local Stand Down for eight years, but notes that the veteran homelessness rate has increased by 25% in the last year. Despite the pandemic, the Elks showed up to help, and did so safely, by taking shifts packing the kits, and having a drive through Stand Down. Grants Coordinator Joe Woodruff writes that even though it was different than years passed, the Elks showed up and, “the Lodge’s presence and work has made the veterans confident that they can count on the Elks”. The Spotlight Grant had a record-breaking year; 1,041 stand-alone Spotlight Grants were approved, and 321 Lodges opted to merge the Spotlight Grants with Beacon Grants. In the end, 1,362 Lodges used Spotlight Grants to meet the needs in their communities—a 147% increase in approved Spotlight Grant applications from last year!

Even more CIP records were broken when the final grant of the 2020-21 year—the Beacon Grant—opened on August 1. In all, 1,400 Beacon Grants were approved. Typically, Beacon Grants support annual, active projects, but this year, in light of the pandemic, flexibility was key, including donation of funds to organizations providing COVID relief. Many Lodges suspended or changed their annual projects to meet immediate and pressing needs in a big way—especially because the Beacon Grant got a boost to $3,500 in the 2020-21 grant year.

With that extra $1,000, Elks were able to make huge differences in their communities. Homer, N.Y., Lodge No. 2506, for example, used their $3,500 Beacon Grant to provide winter coats to children in need in their community through Operation Warm. The Lodge noticed that many children, especially children in the foster system, in their community went without coats in the cold winter months, and decided to change that. Additionally, due to the pandemic, the need for coats was even greater than years past, so with the additional $1,000, the Lodge was able to provide 245 coats to children in need, up from 150 coats that the Lodge provided last year. Grants Coordinator Matt Barnes writes, “In setting up an event to distribute the coats to the youth in need, the Lodge successfully furthered it image in the community as partners who can and do provide meaningfully for its needs”. Homer, N.Y., Lodge No. 2506 is truly an embodiment of #ElksAlwaysCare!

For many families, 2020 was a year of extreme need but, as in normal times, the Elks rose to the occasion, showing their communities that #ElksAlwaysCare. Nearly $11.5 million went directly to communities in need, and the Elks had a significant and lasting effect in the communities they call home. While the 2020-21 grant year has closed, the CIP is looking forward to the 2021-22 grant year and the amazing things that the Elks will surely accomplish.

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