Whether your organization currently receives grants from foundations to support your programs or not, it is important to know what these significant players in philanthropy are doing to aid the response and recovery from this current crisis. For those with current foundation partnerships, open conversations with grantmakers can yield important benefits for current and future funding. For those who do not receive such funding, there may be avenues to secure an urgent lifeline to support your operations during difficult times.
To date, nearly 500 foundation grantmakers have signed a pledge to support nonprofits in this unprecedented moment, including valuable commitments to their partners and the broader community that include:
- Loosening and in some cases eliminating restrictions on current grants. This opens the door to valuable unrestricted funding that can help your organization cover gaps in operational and administrative costs. Moreover, as our communities may have urgent needs to be met, you can have the flexibility to reprogram money where it is needed most. If you have foundation partners already, be open with them about what you need most — including a change in the terms and requirements of your current grants.
- Expand new, unrestricted grantmaking opportunities to partners, as well as organizations leading in the community who may not be current grantees. If you have independent or community foundations in your area, see if they have launched a specific COVID-19 response fund. For example, the Boston Foundation has established a rolling fund with new grants to be made each week.
- Join forces with others in creating community-based response funds that help address critical health needs and other economic impacts in the places hardest hit by the crisis. Many of these joint funds will be administered by a single entity, but foundations are extending their mandates to give back in their home communities — and you should check if such opportunities exist to help your organization. For example, here in New York, the Ford Foundation, JPB Foundation, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and others have set aside their different missions and program funding areas to open a dedicated, $75-million NYC COVID-19 Response & Impact Fund, administered by the New York Community Trust.
- Communicate with, listen to and support grantee partners to enable more effective, comprehensive response efforts. Dialogue is essential in this challenging period, as we are all working quickly to respond in a changing landscape. Foundations are committing to even greater transparency with their partners, and they are eager to incorporate feedback from the ground — valuing the expertise of those closest to the impacts of this crisis — so that they can improve their response efforts as well. They are also committing to be allies in arguing for public policy changes and emergency response provisions coming from local, state and national governments. This includes lobbying for valuable support provisions like paid sick leave, housing assistance and health care access, which are critical not only for nonprofit program beneficiaries, but many nonprofit staff themselves.
There have been recent pushes to encourage increased unrestricted funding from foundations, exhibiting trust in nonprofit partners to invest wisely for program and organization effectiveness. The stark realities of the COVID-19 pandemic have made such changes unfortunately more urgent, but the commitment of these philanthropic actors to rise to the occasion in support of nonprofits on the frontlines of response and recovery is a powerful example of how we can work together to navigate the troubled waters in our communities.
If you have more questions about how to approach these and other critical support opportunities during the COVID-19 crisis, our team is here for you — you can contact us at any time.
To see the signatories of this important pledge, visit the Council on Foundations’ website for a listing at the bottom of the page.