Pascale Sykes Foundation on COVID and Sunsetting

The number of small businesses facing hardship due to COVID-19 continue to rise every day. In partnership with New Jersey Community Capital (NJCC), the Pascale Sykes Foundation is building a safety net for local New Jersey businesses impacted by the pandemic. The announcement comes alongside the Foundation’s intention to sunset operations in the next few years–and their intention to make as big of an impact as possible before closing their doors.

Frances P. Sykes (right) speaks with staff members at the Pascale Sykes Foundation. (Photo Credit: Pascale Sykes Foundation)

On April 23, the Foundation announced its commitment to the expansion of the THRIVE South Jersey Initiative, a program designed to combat economic hardship in four South Jersey counties. In light of COVID-19, NJCC and the Foundation introduced zero-based interest rate loans for small businesses in Gloucester, Cumberland, Salem, and Western Atlantic Counties.

The improved initiative is based on NJCC and the Foundation’s learnings from the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. The key lesson was that in times of crisis, small businesses need financial support to survive the economic setbacks associated with an emergency. During the COVID-19 pandemic, small businesses need funding–and they need it fast.

Through THRIVE South Jersey, businesses with three to fifty employees located in one of the THRIVE-sponsored counties can apply for these low-interest loans, and receive funding in as little as 10 to 14 days post-application.

“In the areas we serve, small businesses are the backbone of the community,” says Frances P. Sykes, President of the Pascale Sykes Foundation. “Many small businesses are not only suffering but in danger of failing, leaving working low-income caregivers, not only temporarily but possibly permanently out of work. As a result, relationships and child well-being will suffer. All family members will be hurt for years to come. Small businesses have difficulty obtaining government funding and it is generally delayed. Nonprofits are also suffering as their annual fundraisers, have been cancelled. Foundations can move quickly and flexibly to support small businesses and nonprofits right now. That’s what we’re hoping this expanded commitment to New Jersey Community Capital will do – keep them afloat so they can get past this current crisis.”

The Pascale Sykes Foundation supports working low-income families by advocating for and funding programs that empower all members of a family to transform their social and economic status.

Led by Frances Sykes, the Foundation is a leader and champion of the Whole Family Approach, a family-led strategy that provides adults and children with the tools to collectively set life goals, create actionable plans, and achieve those goals. The Foundation’s funding goes toward programs offering actionable lessons in setting goals, establishing stability, and planning for the future, as well as toward initiatives that improve transportation and support small businesses.

“We focus on prevention, not crisis,” says Sykes. “Many of the current social service systems approach family well-being from an individualistic and crisis-oriented perspective. The Whole Family Approach, focusing on whole people within their family environment, encourages collaboration among service providers to address the goals of children and their caregivers together. Seamless collaboration among multiple organizations, working together to support families, yields better access to multiple services and improves well-being for both individuals and the entire family.”

“Families are the foundation upon which strong communities are built,” she adds. “In many ways, working, low-income families are the backbone of our country, holding the low wage jobs that keep hospitals, service and hospitality organizations running. Yet the system is not working for them right now. These individuals are doing all the right things — working, getting their children to school, nurturing their families. But they live paycheck to paycheck. If a single circumstance in their life changes, such as a parent losing a job, or someone falling ill, it could threaten the entire family’s long-term well-being.”

Frances P. Sykes (center) with staff and partners of the Pascale Sykes Foundation (Photo Credit: Pascale Sykes Foundation)

Founded in 1992, the Foundation team has had plenty of time to look back on past campaigns and take what they’ve learned into consideration for future projects.

“We’ve learned several lessons,” says Sykes. “Some are practical, such as being very clear on the terms of a grant by setting clear expectations and guidelines that ensure your approach is being followed and there is some level of accountability. Another is to remain hands-on with grantees, whom are closer to the families, but to allow them enough flexibility within those established parameters to support families as they work toward meeting their goals.”

“Consistent leadership is vital,” she adds. “All staff within a grantee organization, top to bottom, must accept the basic premises of the Whole Family Approach to achieve efficacy. Everyone is an ambassador of the Whole Family Approach.”

Sykes also stresses the importance of flexibility on the part of the people providing the funding.

“We need to focus on the goal and be mindful of the flexibility needed to reach it,” she says. “Grantors, as well as grantees, must modify plans to achieve their goals. Goals may change as families and times change. Grantors should not only listen to grantees, but families as well. Further, we need to convene grantees regularly to provide inspiration and training to address their concerns and needs. A continuous learning environment is important.”

After almost three decades of service, the Foundation now plans to sunset its activities by 2021, and has begun the process of pivoting its grant process to renewals for existing grantees.

“The decision to sunset was based on three factors,” Sykes explains. “First, the decision to make a large impact was critical and distributing 5% – 6% of funding each year simply would not accomplish that goal. Second, I am deeply passionate about this Foundation and its work, but I had to realize that my children may have other ideas. As adults, they have their own charitable interests and should be able to pursue their passions. We can all do good in the world in our own way. Third, times will change. When we first started, the Whole Family Approach was unknown. As the Approach becomes generally accepted, society’s needs will change. Instead of shifting into new focus areas or repurposing into something less meaningful to donor intent, I decided to sunset. I have had no regrets.”

In its last few years of action, the Foundation hopes to offer more support to its grantees and its local community through programs like THRIVE South Jersey.

“This now a huge endeavor,” she Sykes. “We hope to support small businesses and nonprofits, which in turn keeps families and communities stronger.”

For other organizations just starting out, and those struggling to pivot in the face of international upheaval, Sykes points out the necessity of learning from the past to succeed in the future.

“Research and listen to other foundations that have closed their doors,” she says. “Learn their lessons. Consider their advice and use their resources. It’s most likely that other organizations have faced similar challenges. Learn what you can and pass it on.”


About applications for the THRIVE South Jersey Initiative: Eligible small businesses must have three to fifty full-time employees. To receive the no-interest loan, businesses must be located in the four THRIVE-sponsored counties, but businesses located elsewhere in New Jersey can still apply for a 3% interest rate loan through the Garden State Relief Fund. To submit an application to the THRIVE South Jersey Initiative, complete this form and return via email to relief@njclf.com.

About New Jersey Community Capital (NJCC): New Jersey Community Capital is a nonprofit community development financial institution (CDFI) that provides innovative financing and technical assistance to support the preservation and development of affordable housing and sustainable community development ventures that increase jobs, improve education, and strengthen neighborhoods. Founded in 1987, NJCC has invested over $630 million in New Jersey communities, resulting in the creation/preservation of over 9,950 housing units, 6,350 early care seats, 18,950 education seats, and 10,700 jobs. For more information, visit: www.newjerseycommunitycapital.org.

About the Pascale Sykes Foundation: Based in New Jersey, the Pascale Sykes Foundation builds strong families by advocating for and funding holistic social and economic programs that transform the lives of working, low-income families. A leader and champion of the Whole Family Approach, the Pascale Sykes Foundation seeks to empower, through collaboration with communities, all members of a family to work together to set goals, establish stability and plan for the future they imagine. www.pascalesykesfoundation.com

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Author: Maggie May

Maggie May is a small business owner, author, and story-centric content strategist headquartered in Annapolis, MD and Philadelphia, PA. She has a passion for finding stories and telling them the way they're meant to be told.

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