COVID-19 Response Grants

Seniors and COVID-19

an elderly woman sits alone at a table looking out the window

The coronavirus pandemic has transformed daily life for all San Diegans, but few have been impacted more than seniors. Eight out of 10 COVID-19 deaths in the United States have been in adults age 65 and over. Because seniors are particularly vulnerable to the virus, they have been advised to continue staying home, even as communities relax coronavirus restrictions. Months of isolation have already taken a toll on their wellbeing, and there is no end in sight. The adverse health effects of social isolation have been compared to smoking 15 cigarettes a day – increasing the risk of depression, loneliness, malnutrition, and physical and cognitive decline. These conditions will only worsen as the pandemic drags on.

Senior centers and nonprofit service organizations in San Diego County play a crucial role in supporting community-dwelling older adults and helping combat the negative effects of isolation, poverty, and the social determinants of health. These entities that serve older adults have been hit hard by the economic fallout of COVID-19 as program revenue has evaporated, fundraising events have been canceled, and budgets have been slashed. There is an urgent need for philanthropy to help plug these funding gaps so organizations can continue doing work that is more important now than ever.

Our role as a community foundation is to address the ongoing needs of our most vulnerable neighbors by supporting senior centers and community-based nonprofit organizations. Our guiding principle is to stand behind organizations making sure that every local senior has someone they can turn to and trust. To this end, we are working to increase resources for older adults in need and connect isolated seniors with services to help them weather the Covid-19 storm, so they can stay safe, secure, and healthy in their own homes during the crisis and beyond.

Focus on Elder Orphans, Seniors in Poverty, and Minority & Immigrant Older Adults

an older woman wearing a face mask holds up her hand in a peace sign

Senior orphans are an emerging group of San Diegans who, for various reasons, including lack of nearby relatives, never having children, never getting married, divorce, widowhood, or even in some cases, the death of a child, do not have the familial or fraternal support networks that are so essential in maintaining healthy, independent living.

SANDAG’s demographic growth forecast predicts the local population of adults age 60 and up will approach 930,000 by the year 2030. Within that number, it is estimated that nearly 25% (over 200,000 older adults) are at risk of becoming elder orphans or are already in this situation.

Recent events have brought renewed vigor to address issues of equity and social injustices that so many older adults have faced and continue to face. The social isolation crisis brought forth by COVID-19 further exacerbates the challenges experienced by marginalized populations, which include minority and immigrant older adults, that were present long before this pandemic. Programmatic initiatives that strive to support isolated seniors within these cohorts truly represent the SDSCF mission of ensuring that every senior has someone they can turn to and trust.


The San Diego Seniors Community Foundation (SDSCF) is partnering with the Sahm Family Foundation (SFF) to produce funding for supporting programs that address seniors’ immediate needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. We seek to provide flexible resources to support essential operations and to increase agencies’ capacity to conduct outreach and to fund innovative, new programs so that isolated seniors and seniors of marginalized populations have greater access to vital services including those improving health and wellness or aimed at bridging the digital divide.

The SDSCF Grants Committee will be approving grant awards from the San Diego Seniors Coronavirus Recovery Fund for programs and services providing COVID-19 relief for isolated and at-risk older adults. We plan to award up to $900,000 in total grants, subject to actual funding received.

San Diego Seniors Community Foundation logo


SDSCF will accept grant applications from San Diego County community senior centers or similar organizations. We will also consider applications from San Diego County nonprofit organizations with programs that serve isolated senior orphans and other at-risk senior populations and who are able and willing to partner with regional senior centers for local service delivery. Grant applicants must be a 501c3 nonprofit organization in good standing with the IRS, the State of California, and the California Attorney General, or a senior center operated by a local municipality.

Exclusions: Grant funding will not be provided for individuals, private foundations, endowment funds, for-profit organizations, and political groups. Religious organizations may apply if funding will be used for a senior center that serves the public and which addresses Covid-19 relief for senior orphans.

Grant Cycles

There will be two grant cycles:

Grant Cycle #1

Grant range of $5K to $75K for urgent and time-sensitive COVID-19 relief efforts

  • Letter of Interest release: September 3, 2020
  • Letter of Interest deadline: September 17, 2020
  • Notification to Agencies invited to apply for a grant: September 24, 2020
  • Deadline for application submittal: October 8, 2020


Will commence in early 2021, contingent on funds raised through the No Senior Alone campaign

Application Process

Letter of Interest

Prospective grantees must submit a Letter of Interest (“LOI”) for preliminary consideration to We ask that the LOI be brief (no more than two pages, 12 pt font), and include the agency’s primary contact (name, title, and email), amount requested, program description focused on Covid-19 relief for isolated seniors and senior orphans, expected outcomes, measurement criteria that is clear and concise, and an indication of collaborative program partnerships and be submitted by close of business Thursday September 17. After review, SDSCF will notify those agencies that are eligible to complete a full application.

Full Grant Application

An online application link provided to those agencies invited to apply.

Questions may be directed to

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    San Diego Seniors Community Foundation
    P.O. Box 60515
    San Diego, CA 92106
    (619) 684-9114
    Tax ID: 81-4910505