In a few short weeks, the COVID-19 outbreak has upended nearly every aspect of our economic and social lives. The global health crisis and the economic fallout that color our current moment have dramatically altered funders' and nonprofits’ work for the foreseeable future. Amid this emergency, we have been incredibly inspired by SCG’s members, who have taken timely actions to strengthen and support their nonprofit partners.
After three weeks of convening funders to learn about their rapid responses and emerging strategies, we’d like to share the key trends emerging in SCG members’ grantmaking practices in response to COVID-19. This list is not comprehensive, nor does it capture the spectrum of what’s possible, especially with the rapidly changing short and long-term needs emerging daily. The following trends constitute a high-level snapshot of how our members embody the spirit of partnership to support nonprofit resilience and our most vulnerable communities’ wellbeing.
Establishing Response Funds
As the impact of COVID-19 aggravates daily, SCG members and philanthropic organizations across California — from private and community foundations to corporate and government grantmakers — have established over 70 response funds. These funds provide critical supports to businesses, community-based organizations, government agencies, and families in various communities. Funders are also coordinating by investing in regional funds and collaborating to address related issue areas.
Increasing General Operating Support
The COVID-19 outbreak has ushered in a slew of unpredictable challenges for nonprofits facing increasing financial strain as they attempt to stay afloat during a pandemic. We’ve seen a wide range of funders restructure current grants to provide greater flexibility and address their grantees’ varying needs. These practices include converting all or a portion of restricted funds or project grants into general operating support, removing grant restrictions altogether, advancing scheduled grant payments, inviting grantees to request new uses of existing budgets and funds, and allowing grantees to adjust grant budgets without seeking prior approval.
Relaxing Reporting Requirements
As grantees reprioritize their work and respond to the outbreak, funders understand that the expectations around completing grant processes and requirements need to be relaxed. Funders are supporting grantees who are currently spread thin by allowing greater flexibility in grant monitoring processes, delaying or suspending reporting requirements, making changes to grant timelines and outcomes, allowing for virtual site visits, and helping grantees to extend their current grants beyond their deadline.
Considering Adding an Additional Year to Current Grants
COVID-19 is devastating the already fragile nonprofit sector. Given the uncertainty around the outbreak’s duration and the declining financial stability of many nonprofits, many funders are considering the possibility of extending funding of current grants to ease urgent funding concerns and allow grantees to focus on serving their communities.
Offsetting Financial Losses from Canceled Events
The local and statewide ordinances around public gatherings have dramatically impacted nonprofits who depend on events to meet their fundraising goals or realize their missions. Funders are taking various actions to help nonprofits facing significant financial losses because of COVID-19 and ensure their resiliency and stability. These actions include ensuring that grants and sponsorships for approved conferences and events remain in place (regardless of whether the event occurs), inviting existing grantees to submit requests for funds to cover costs the organization has or will incur as a direct result of the pandemic.
Providing Emergency Cash Assistance
Right now, many nonprofits are working diligently to provide direct services to the communities most impacted by COVID-19. A common, urgent request is the need to get cash flowing on the ground to support our most vulnerable populations. Several funders have begun accelerating or advancing payments on a limited basis to grantees based on circumstances. Others have developed hardship grants for nonprofits to pass on to communities in need.
Matching Grants and Donations
Corporate funders are implementing strategies to amplify the impact of existing giving by matching the donations and gifts from their staff, businesses, nonprofits, other foundations, and more.
Centering Equity in Strategies and Practices
From supporting the immediate needs of organizers and community members on the frontline of this crisis to ensuring an accurate Census count to denouncing xenophobia and racism, numerous SCG members are taking bold actions grounded in equity. As this global pandemic disproportionately impacts our diverse communities, philanthropy can play an essential role in ensuring equitable access to information and resources, especially for nonprofits led by people of color and serving marginalized communities.
Listening to Nonprofit Partners and Providing Resources
Many SCG members are embodying the spirit of partnership and further build trust with nonprofit partners by asking them what they need. Besides all the practices listed above, grantmakers are going above and beyond to be transparent and responsive by offering support outside of funding. Trust-based philanthropy principles are being tested and put to practice as philanthropy needs to trust nonprofits now more than ever.
Signing the Pledge
Over 500 philanthropic organizations around the country memorialized their commitment to providing grantee partners with the flexibility and grace to respond swiftly and confidently at this moment. SCG members who have already shared this commitment include the Annenberg Foundation, David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Durfee Foundation, Eisner Foundation, Goldhirsh Foundation, Inland Empire Community Foundation, Liberty Hill Foundation, Panta Rhea Foundation, Satterberg Foundation, The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation, and more. We hope that SCG members will join the signers of the Council of Foundation’s pledge in their shared commitment to flexibility, listening, and learning. Sign the Pledge.