COVID-19: How Have Funders Changed Their Approach & What Will Stick?

On July 10, 2020



Grantmaking has seen a seismic shift since March, 2020 because of the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic. Many practices that seemed necessary just last year (grant restrictions, reporting requirements, paper-based processes, 5% payouts) or difficult (collaborative funding efforts, virtual decision making, open conversations with grantees about risk) are now—mere months later—standard operating procedure.

Changes that were impossible or slow moving have suddenly taken on new urgency. In the wake of an urgent movement to address one crisis, the conversations around power and equity in the philanthropic sector have taken on a sharper edge as mass uprisings related to racial and economic justice amplify the impacts of the pandemic.

Philanthropy is at a pivotal decision-making moment, as is the rest of the world. Do we use this pause and upheaval to embrace a “new normal,” or do we return to the way we’ve always done things? The impact of this choice could not be more far reaching. This report attempts to capture a moment in time to evaluate where we are as a field, learn from what we’re seeing, and determine a way forward—to new and better ways or back to the status quo.

In April, Exponent Philanthropy and PEAK Grantmaking each fielded a survey to see how our respective communities of funders were responding to the impact of COVID-19 on their communities, grantees, and internal operations and processes. Inspired by our members’ collaboration during these challenging times, PEAK and Exponent Philanthropy partnered to analyze the survey results in the context of additional reflections and guidance from our members. This report shares our findings. Together, we have woven a story of the potential for change—if we have the courage to forge a better way forward.


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