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Small Foundations Shifting Funding Due To COVID

Almost four out of five small funders have changed their approach to funding as a result of COVID-19 and of those that have not, almost 20 percent plan to change their approach in the next year, according to a recent survey.

Exponent Philanthropy surveyed small foundations in April to learn how the organizations are handling COVID-19, with responses from more than 900 members.

The Washington, D.C.-based organization represents what it calls “lean funders,” those who practice philanthropy with few or no staff, including private foundations, community foundations, corporate and operating foundations, as well as individual donors and philanthropic families.

Almost half of survey respondents say they will give more this year because of the pandemic while about one-third will not. Of the foundations that plan to increase their giving:

  • 8 percent will increase the overall payout;
  • 5 percent will give a certain dollar amount more; and,
  • 4 percent will increase their grant budget by a certain percentage

Many “lean funders” are shifting funding to support new populations. The majority of respondents (53 percent) are working to support individuals who have been economically affected by COVID-19. Almost 42 percent are making grants to nonprofits outside of their typical portfolio.

Respondents are implementing new approaches to supporting grantees and communities, according to those who responded:

  • 72 percent of funders are making emergency response grants outside the foundation’s normal grant cycle and 13 percent are considering it;
  • 64 percent of funders are converting existing grants to more flexible funds, such as converting project grants to general operating support grants, while almost 15 percent are considering such a move;
  • 63 percent of funders are making additional grants to existing grantees and another 22 percent are considering it;
  • 56 percent of funders are delaying or postponing reporting deadlines while 15 percent are considering it; and,
  • 55 percent of funders are collaborating with other funders; 20 percent are considering it.

Operations at foundations have changed since COVID-19, notably, more virtual meetings, particularly when it comes to:

  • Board meetings, 70 percent;
  • Staff meetings, 59 percent; and,
  • Grantee meetings, 59 percent.

More than half of funders (55 percent) have postponed site visits, and almost 30 percent have moved from issuing paper checks to making electronic payments for grants.

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