Many Dane County nonprofit organizations that faced financial strain in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic — including Sunshine Place and Prairie Music & Arts in Sun Prairie — on Sept. 14 received welcome assistance when Madison Community Foundation (MCF) and Dane County Executive Joe Parisi announced Dane County COVID Relief Grant recipients.

Grants ranging from $2,500 to $50,000 were awarded to 183 organizations working in the county (see the list with the online version of this story at

Other area entities receiving grants included Boys & Girls Club of Dane County, the Dane County Fair Association, NAMI Dane County, Tellurian, Tri 4 Schools and Token Creek Festival, which is the Token Creek Chamber Music Festival.

Prairie Music & Arts, which does business under that name, received a grant under a different name, Music Academy of Sun Prairie.

The grants help offset the losses and/or increased expenses these organizations experienced because of the pandemic. The program was funded by the County with an allocation from the American Rescue Plan Act.

“Many Dane County nonprofits were part of the frontline response to the pandemic and served our community in unprecedented ways,” said Dane County Executive Joe Parisi.

“We are excited to get this funding out the door and into our community,” Parisi added. “These grants will help local nonprofits recover from the impacts of the pandemic and reinvest in their work. Congratulations to the recipients, and many thanks to Madison Community Foundation for partnering with us on this effort.”

“We saw such a range of organizations apply for grants through this program,” said Tom Linfield, Vice President of Community Impact at MCF.

“From providing support to children and youth to working in the arts, offering health and human services or fulfilling basic needs, providing sports and recreation to protecting the environment,” Linfield added, “these organizations are working to provide opportunities and support for the people of Dane County.”

The economic toll on the nonprofits that applied for grants varied greatly: two-thirds of the groups saw their budgets shrink in 2020, and 34% were forced to furlough staff at some point during the year.

Nearly half of the organizations ended 2020 with deficits ranging up to $2.3 million. And while many of Dane County’s nonprofit organizations were able to receive funding last year through the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), nearly a third of today’s grant recipients did not.

“Many nonprofits were ineligible to receive Paycheck Protection Program resources because they did not have relationships with financial institutions,” said Bob Sorge, President and CEO of MCF.

“By prioritizing those organizations with the American Rescue Plan resources,” Sorge added, “we were able to bridge an important gap and support a wide range of programs and nonprofits.”

Because these grants were intended to help offset the pandemic’s economic impact on the county’s nonprofits, the review process focused heavily on budgets, revenues and expenses between 2019 and 2020.

Organizations provided information about additional costs incurred in dealing with the pandemic, including safety equipment, technology for virtual programming, and home office costs.

Reviewers also considered deficits, furloughed staff, emergency loans and federal funding in making award decisions. Preference was also given to those organizations that had not yet received federal funding.

Established as a community trust in 1942, Madison Community Foundation, together with donors, has distributed more than $250 million to strengthen causes and communities in Dane County and around the world. Learn more at

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