Lean Funders Are Adjusting Their Grantmaking and Operations to Respond to COVID-19: Week of April 13 - Exponent Philanthropy
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Lean Funders Are Adjusting Their Grantmaking and Operations to Respond to COVID-19: Week of April 13

On Friday, April 10, Exponent Philanthropy hosted a fourth live discussion for lean funders to share how they are responding to COVID-19. We will continue to host these discussions every Friday at 2 PM ET to give all lean funders the opportunity to connect around their responses. We are also compiling COVID-19 information and resources relevant to lean funders.

Lean funders are responding to COVID-19 in many ways, while recognizing the virus, response, testing, treatments, medical supplies, and community needs are ever-changing.

On April 10, funders discussed:

Succession planning

Having a sound leadership succession plan in place is an essential. Some funders updated succession plans just before COVID-19, while others are revisiting past plans. Importantly, funders are increasingly thinking through scenarios they may have overlooked to expect the unexpected and ensure operations continue.

Click here for more information on succession planning.

Racial inequities

COVID-19 is exacerbating racial inequities. Several funders talked about raising awareness of the disparities in funding for white-led nonprofits and nonprofits led by people of color, and the resulting risk to nonprofits in times of uncertainty. One funder discussed how he brings attention to the imbalance in access to philanthropic dollars, and his collaboration with other funders to help mitigate funding disparities.

Racial equity work can take on many forms. Now is an important time to recognize how philanthropy can help support communities of color.

Acting quickly with sustained urgency

Funders see government programs emerging to help nonprofits and individuals affected by COVID-19, but they acknowledge these programs are moving slowly. Some funders feel that going about business as usual could mean more suffering, and they’re giving money expeditiously to ease immediate needs. That being said, funders also recognize COVID-19 efforts are a marathon, not a sprint. As funders work without delay to help organizations now, they’re continuing to think about future operations too.


Funders regularly emphasize trusting grantees on calls, and, this week, they shared the significance of trusting foundation staff too. Foundation staff (or those acting in staff roles) are often an essential support system for nonprofit leaders, and trustees play a key role in supporting staff in trying times. Trustees can foster support for staff as nonprofit leaders lean on them emotionally and more often.

Communicating with grantees

Funders continue to emphasize communicating with grantees, asking what they need and when they need it. Funders have heard that some organizations need help right now while others are more concerned with future needs. Making long-term commitments helps reassure nonprofit leaders, letting them focus on the need at hand without having to fret as much over future finances.

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