Philanthropic Trends in Funding Flexibility for Grantee Partners

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

By Camille Cyprian, MCF Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Philanthropy is doing its best to be responsive in the relief and recovery efforts surrounding the COVID-19 global pandemic. Foundations are creating independent and collaborative funds to address the wide range of community needs, particularly for nonprofit grantee partners serving our most vulnerable and impacted communities. As a part of that response, many foundations have made publicly facing statements about how they plan to work with their current grantee partners in this time of uncertainty.

A state-wide and national scan of foundation statements expressing some level of flexibility to their currently funded grantees, has revealed a few themes, including increased communication, flexibility, and a shift to general operating funds:

Grantees are willing to have a conversation about any unique and apparent needs that have risen as a result of COVID-19. Foundations are either asking that grantee partners contact their assigned program officer to discuss options or having program officers reach out to the organizations in their grant portfolios to see how they’re doing and if any adjustments are required.

Foundations are also providing extensions to reporting requirements, in addition to simplifying and streamlining those processes. Others are offering extensions on grant applications or providing funding extensions to current grantees. Having flexibility in deadlines where possible, allow for our nonprofit partners to internally adjust to performing their work differently and reduces the additional burden of putting together a grant report in the midst of an unplanned, but required, transition.

Many foundations are open to, or automatically, shifting their current grant funds into general operating funds, encouraging partners to utilize the funding for the most pressing needs of the organization. This important change can mean making payroll, having telework capabilities, or numerous other benefits for nonprofits to keep their doors open, and best do their work. Additionally, there are a few foundations that are infusing their current grantees with more funding, and faster funding, to help support them while they face growing economic challenges.

Grant flexibility, specifically funding general operating expenses, is often considered a promising practice for equitable grantmaking. During a time when things are changing rapidly, often moment to moment, this practice is even more important, meaningful, and impactful for vulnerable communities and the organizations that serve them.

For a list of MCF members (and some national players) who have made public statements regarding grant flexibility for their current grantees please see here.*

*Note that this list only includes foundation members who have websites and have made public statements specific to grant flexibility for their current funding partners. It does not include members who have created separate relief or recovery funds. Additionally, and for this reason, corporate members are not represented on the list, as most corporations have made statement to the broader public and shareholders (and not publicly to nonprofit partners/grantees).