Lean Funders Are Adjusting Their Grantmaking and Operations to Respond to COVID-19: Week of April 27 - Exponent Philanthropy
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Lean Funders Are Adjusting Their Grantmaking and Operations to Respond to COVID-19: Week of April 27

On Friday, April 24, Exponent Philanthropy hosted a fifth 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 varied ways, while recognizing the virus, response, testing, treatments, medical supplies and community needs are ever-changing.

On April 24, funders discussed:

Finding hope in difficult times

Across the country, funders say they’re finding hope and inspiration in grantees in these tough times. Many see an opportunity for open and honest conversations with grantees, and some have even surprised funders by returning the grants they need less than other organizations in the community. Funders are also hopeful from the innovating they’re seeing from nonprofits and foundations. New partnerships and collaborations are emerging to fill urgent needs, and funders are optimistic these new partnerships will continue beyond COVID-19.

Shifting strategies

Several funders are shifting their approach to funding, focusing on the same issue areas, but adapting their strategies to better support the community through COVID-19. Some funders mentioned proactively moving to address systems change work in recent years, but at present, they’re prioritizing supporting the human services that are in much greater demand.

Leveraging more than money

Lean funders with limited grant budgets are still finding ways to make a big impact. More and more are partnering with one another, supporting grantee collaboration and educating the public about the increased need at this time. One funder said she provided a matching grant to a local food bank, helping it raise $60,000 in small donations. And the food bank went on to replicate the approach with other funders, raising over $300,000.

Being strong for grantees

Funders know there’s a lot of uncertainty right now, and they’re trying to stay strong and reassure their nonprofit partners that they’re with them for the long-haul.

Funders are showing grantees a vote of confidence by reaching out, delaying reporting deadlines, and even giving an extra year of funding. They believe all to be morale boosters for grantees.

Seeking balance

Lean funders emphasized needing to find a new sense of balance. While caring for grantees, they must also find new ways to care for themselves and their colleagues. Foundation boards and staff are working from home. Some have the daily distraction of family, whereas others find it hard to stop with work always a few feet away. No matter the challenge, funders said they took comfort in being able to talk openly with their peers. And as the sole staff, or one of few, they’re not alone in adjusting to this new normal.

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