“LOOK HOW MANY PEOPLE CAN COME TOGETHER”
Dave Matthews Band and
How the Heal Fund Started
The Heal Fund wouldn’t have been possible without Dave Matthews Band. Within days of the violence, the band and Red Light Management had begun the herculean task of organizing and raising money for a free benefit concert in their hometown. The Concert for Charlottesville occurred on September 24 at the University of Virginia’s Scott Stadium. In addition to Dave Matthews Band, artists from around the country came to Charlottesville to donate their time, including Pharrell Williams, Justin Timberlake, Ariana Grande, Chris Martin, Chris Stapleton, the Roots, Brittany Howard, Cage the Elephant, and, in a special appearance, Stevie Wonder.
When Matthews took the stage that night, the musician and longtime philanthropist marveled at the thousands of community members in the audience. “Look how many people can come together this quickly for unity,” he said. He went on to explain that he did not want Charlottesville, where the band first made its mark, to ever become associated with hate.
“This is truly an example that love can win,” Wonder said during his appearance.
A Concert for Charlottesville
While the concert was free, donations from community members and fans around the country, university alumni, corporate sponsors, and the proceeds from merchandise totaled more than $1.5 million. Funds were used to support the immediate needs of survivors and first responders. Some funds also would later support the launch of a Freedom School in Charlottesville, a partnership between the Charlottesville City Schools and the university’s Center for Race and Public Education in the South.
This generosity was not new for Dave Matthews Band. They have a long history of organizing benefit concerts in times of need. And the Bama Works Fund, established by the band at the Community Foundation in 1998, has made thousands of grants, totaling more than $30 million. In 2018, the band announced a catalyzing gift of $5 million toward the redevelopment of public housing in Charlottesville, while just this summer, Bama Works announced a $1 million partnership with the Foundation’s Community Emergency Response Fund to address the impacts of the novel coronavirus and longstanding racial inequities.
The funds raised from the band’s Concert for Charlottesville became the primary source of the Community Foundation’s Heal Charlottesville Fund. This new fund, announced within days of the violence, sought to provide immediate assistance to the injured and traumatized, while fostering community dialogue, reconciliation, restoration, and healing. It also sought to fund leadership and decision-making efforts within those communities.
Jay Kessler, a Charlottesville contractor and then the new chair of the Foundation’s Governing Board, recalls thinking that while these were “some pretty lofty goals” they were worth pursuing.
Brennan Gould, then the Foundation’s director of programs, helped pull people together to think strategically about how the Heal Fund would operate. Conversations between the Foundation and the band led to the effective combining of the two funds to provide a coordinated response effort. What happened next helped transform the way in which the Community Foundation does its business.