A national network of funders supporting strategic, innovative, and effective solutions to homelessness

Follow Grantmaking Best Practices

Last updated: October 19, 2020

Though many of our philanthropic partners focus their work on best grantmaking practices, we thought it important to lift up some of these practices as they relate to COVID-19. During this pandemic, we have seen many funders convert program-restricted grants to general operating support and to reduce the burden of reporting or application requirements. If philanthropy can pivot this quickly during times of need and grantees report being able to focus more on their live-saving work, how can we as a field permanently adopt these changes to always reduce the burden on grantees? 

Responsive Funding and Processes

  • Set up a rapid response fund or contribute to a local rapid response fund, and work with other local funders to coordinate grantmaking to reduce redundancies, ensure funding for all needs, and be aware of what other resources are available for grantees.  
  • Expedite grantmaking processes, including: eliminating grant applications for existing grantees; aligning RFPs with other funders; waiving or deferring grant reports; and expediting grant payments.  
  • Convert restricted grants to general operating support. Keep sponsorships despite canceled or postponed events.   
  • Look at whether internal budgets for events or travel can be repurposed into additional grant dollars. 
  • Consider additional grants to cover additional needs grantees might have as a result of COVID-19, such as new technology, mental health support for staff, additional capacity needs, etc.   

Examples & Resources:

  • The Simmons Foundation in Houston clearly lays out the priorities and practices that they are adopting as a result of COVID-19, which includes: contacting most of the organizations with program support and are making those funds available to be used for operating dollars as needed; adjusting deadlines, reports, and applications; and supporting the healing and health of grant partners and movement leaders.  
  • The Polk Bros. Foundation in Chicago also shares their COVID-19 commitment to grantee partners, including: the conversation of most grants to general operating support; simplifying application and reporting processes for at least their next two rounds of grantmaking; and being transparent that they do not anticipate their regular program budgets to be affected by the grants they’re making in response to COVID-19. 
  • See Liberty Hill’s COVID-19 response activities, including launching a response fund, accelerating grants, organizing town halls to bring organizers together, and putting together a response page for partners. 
  • Raikes Foundation announced a new fund for to Support Homeless Youth in Washington State Through COVID-19 Crisis 
  • North Texas Cares is a common application that once submitted is reviewed by a collaboration of funders, including 30 North Texas foundations and United Ways, that have come together to provide support for organizations that work with people and communities most affected by all aspects of COVID-19. 

Grantmaking for Long-Term Change

  • Start the process of permanently adopting these best practices to make your grantmaking equitable and best support grantees. 
  • Start planning your recovery grantmaking strategy, which should center racial equity and systems-change work. Think about what policy changes are needed to prevent people from becoming homeless in the aftermath of COVID-19 and what will be needed to keep people who were housed during the pandemic from returning to the streets.   
  • Begin thinking about how to shift more of your grantmaking dollars and processes to support and include people of color with lived expertise and grassroots organizers.  
  • Use this moment to educate senior leadership and foundation boards about structural racism and why addressing it must be core to your grantmaking and mission, especially in the work to prevent and end homelessness. 

Examples & Resources:






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We joined Funders Together because we believe in the power of philanthropy to play a major role in ending homelessness, and we know we have much to learn from funders across the country.

-Christine Marge, Director of Housing and Financial Stability at United Way of Greater Los Angeles

I am thankful for the local partnerships here in the Pacific Northwest that we’ve been able to create and nurture thanks to the work of Funders Together. Having so many of the right players at the table makes our conversations – and all of our efforts – all the richer and more effective.

-David Wertheimer, Deputy Director at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Very often a lack of jobs and money is not the cause of poverty, but the symptom. The cause may lie deeper in our failure to give our fellow citizens a fair chance to develop their own capacities, in a lack of education and training, in a lack of medical care and housing, in a lack of decent communities in which to live and bring up their children.

-President Lyndon B. Johnson, 1964 State of the Union Address

Funders Together has given me a platform to engage the other funders in my community. Our local funding community has improved greatly to support housing first models and align of resources towards ending homelessness.

-Leslie Strnisha, Vice President at Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland

Our family foundation convenes local funders and key community stakeholders around strategies to end homelessness in Houston. Funders Together members have been invaluable mentors to us in this effort, traveling to our community to share their expertise and examples of best practices from around the nation.

-Nancy Frees Fountain, Managing Director at The Frees Foundation

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