TechTown and the Rocket Community Fund have partnered to shine the spotlight on business owners and ecosystem service providers who responded quickly to the COVID-19 pandemic. As we count down to the end of 2020, we will share the stories of these “Innovators” in an effort to elevate the ingenuity of Detroiters and lift spirits.
For our sixth and final Innovator Series spotlight of 2020, we spoke with TeQuion Brookins, founder and COO of the Minority Freedom Community Fund, a national nonprofit organization headquartered in Southfield but operating virtually.
Q: Why do you do what you, and how long have you been doing it?
A: I founded the nonprofit in 2019 as my attempt to correct the severe unmet need existing among African Americans in the United States. Addressing the economic, social and holistic well-being of minorities across the country is done through a variety of programs that are led by community members, civic leaders, other nonprofits, business owners and government agencies alike. Our delivery method primarily entails serving as a fiduciary for programs and providing grants, interest-free loans and technical assistance to individuals and businesses that align with our mission. MFCF aims to support existing social service infrastructure and elevate participatory grant making among those who are most often the targets but rarely the voices of traditional philanthropy. As a community fund, or goal is to ensure that the people we aim to serve have the loudest voices in our decision-making processes. We invite people with little to no prior experience to serve on our board and working committees to gain nonprofit leadership experience and exposure. We seek to:
- Prioritize funding requests from those who have been turned away from other programs, are ineligible for existing supports or need additional help to fill the gaps other sources have created through insufficient support
- Minimize barriers for our recipients and our donors through simplified, virtual application and awarding processes, and robust, comprehensive donation acceptance procedures
- Dedicate our resources to core, mission-aligned activities by operating virtually to minimize overhead costs associated with running a national program and expand our reach
Q: How did you adapt or pivot what you do since March?
A: We were formally established in December 2019, and by our first board meeting in 2020 we had established a COVID-19 taskforce with the goal of mitigating disproportionate disparity among minorities during the COVID-19 pandemic through:
- Connecting minorities to financial and informational resources
- Advocating based off community members’ experiences
- Sharing facts about the COVID-19 disease, related news and legislation
We implemented weekly community Zoom calls and had members of the Health Department share information about staying healthy and developing action plans for families. We also had over 20 community leaders and business owners attend these calls to share relevant information. In addition to calls and information sharing, we established an Emergency Community Response fund and focused 100% of our fundraising efforts on supporting this fund. Our Youth Advisory Committee held a forum for American Youth on race in August to create a safe space for young people to discuss the current racial climate and develop coping techniques prior to returning to school.
Q: What has been the impact of your response to the COVID-19 pandemic?
A: Over $4,000 in emergency funding awards were granted to over 30 minority families across the country (over 80% in the Metro Detroit Area) who experienced a loss in income or childcare, and/or who suffered from COVID-19 exposure. One hundred percent of our community call participants noted that they found the information provided valuable and timely. We have grown from a volunteer board and staff of nine in February of 2020 to over 40 (as of September 2020), increasing the number of minorities being exposed to nonprofit leadership skill development.