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:
- COVID-19 and the Role of Philanthropy: How We Can Become Better Grantmakers – Borealis Philanthropy
- Joint letter of commitment from several funders in the Washington DC area: The COVID-19 Crisis is a Racial Justice Issue & our Response must Prioritize the Power of Black, Indigenous, Latinx & Other People of Color