COVID-19 Nonprofit Hardship Fund

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How does the Sempra Energy Foundation define a small and/or medium-sized charity?

We considered adding definitions, but after research, learned there are a wide range of definitions, with the upper ceiling on “small” ranging at less than $1 million, and an upper ceiling on “medium” ranging from $10-25 million in revenues. So, instead of being prescriptive about it, let us explain our intent:

We are aiming to help organizations scale up and deliver services that meet basic needs for people and families during the COVID-19 pandemic. We know that everyone is affected in some way – every child, every student, every senior and every family. But some people are in more vulnerable predicaments than others, and we know that charities deemed “essential” are working vigorously to serve the most vulnerable communities in new and more challenging ways. They may be at capacity and struggling to meet increasing demands.

Larger organizations, on the other hand, may have established their own relief funds; be receiving significant support from the public or government; or, may have rainy-day funds, endowments or major donors already stepping up to help them serve. Just as smaller businesses are having a harder time right now, so too are smaller nonprofits.


Q: Can you please share a little more insight on what you mean when you say, “the health, education, social services and welfare needs” of individuals and families significantly affected by COVID-19?

With the guidance already provided, we have tried to stress our focus on helping small and mid-sized organizations scale up to meet basic needs and services (not “nice-to-haves”) for individuals and families who are in greatest need during the course of the pandemic and related shelter-in-place directives.

To us, this means organizations already serving vulnerable or at-risk populations; having to do so with increasing volumes of clients; and increasing service levels, under new and more challenging circumstances.

We also acknowledge that amidst these pressures, major fundraisers have been cancelled, testing the short- and long-term viability of organizations providing these important services. Helping nonprofit organizations in these predicaments is our top priority. We want to help them serve increasing numbers of people during this challenging time and we want to see them survive it over the long-term.


Q: What kinds of educational services will you consider as falling into the category of basic needs at this time?

Certainly, educating at-risk populations about COVID-19 and the steps individuals can take to avoid getting it or spreading it to others is critical, especially for populations that may not speak English, may not receive information through traditional media or who may be living in conditions that would be conducive to the spread of illness.

We are also aware that in some places where we operate, school distribution of daily or weekend meals to lower-income students may have been suspended, leaving children and their families without access to nutrition.

There are also nonprofit daycare centers providing service to first responders who must work and they are doing their best to scale up and serve and educate increasing numbers of children who are out of school and have nowhere to go as their parents are going to work at hospitals, grocery stores, and yes, even utilities.

These are examples of what we consider to be basic needs at this time as opposed to “nice-to-have” services and other kinds of support for students who have had classes canceled – which is a universal challenge for every student.


Q: My organization is trying to move our regular programs and services from in-person delivery to online. Are you supporting these kinds of efforts?

No, this is not the aim of our Nonprofit Hardship Fund.


Q: You have excluded private foundations, large community foundations, nonprofit organizations or institutions that have established their own COVID-related response funds. Why?

The Sempra Energy Foundation is a private grantmaking foundation and we have established the Nonprofit Hardship Fund to meet specific needs directly and quickly. In that sense, giving our resources to others to distribute is an unnecessary step since we can deliver grants ourselves with greater expediency.

That said, if you represent a small foundation that has established a COVID fund but perhaps has raised very little for it so far, feel free to apply focusing on the services you intend to deliver directly with the funds you raise. If your goals align with ours, perhaps we can find a way to partner with you.


Q: I already applied for a COVID-19 related contribution from one of your California utilities (SDG&E, SoCalGas). Can I also apply for support from the Sempra Energy Foundation?

Thank you for asking. Our California utilities have each set up $1 million funds as well, with very specific purposes in mind.

SDG&E’s funds are aimed at food, income and rental assistance to those disproportionately affected by the pandemic’s economic consequences.

The SoCalGas Fund is supporting a wide range of organizations throughout southern and central California supporting hunger and workforce relief.

In addition, both are offering additional support to customers through existing funds at their respective United Way chapters in San Diego and Los Angeles that offer assistance with utility bill payments for individuals and families in need.

Our efforts are intended to be complementary and not duplicative, so we are closely coordinating with them on requests that come from California-based charities.


Q: My organization is working to help animals during the pandemic since many veterinarians and spay-neuter clinics are temporarily closed down. Will you entertain a request along these lines?

We are focused on helping people and families to meet basic needs at this time. You may wish to approach the ASPCA Relief and Recovery Initiative, which has set up a $5 million fund to help animals.


Q: My organization is trying to simply survive and continue operations during COVID-19. Are you supporting salaries and rent payments?

No, we are not supporting baseline operational expenses. We urge you to look at the resources being assembled for nonprofit organizations to aid with viability. Some useful sites we’ve run across include: Philanthropy CA,, and The National Council for Nonprofits. Philanthropy CA has a lot of useful links to response funds, resources, public policy updates for nonprofits based in California.


If you still have questions about the Nonprofit Hardship Fund, please email [email protected].