Funder Impact Spotlight: Why Investing in Nonprofit Resilience Has Become an Imperative

Social Solutions Blog

Funder Impact Spotlight: Why Investing in Nonprofit Resilience Has Become an Imperative

The social good sector – encompassing a wide spectrum of funders, philanthropists, nonprofits and government agencies – exists to solve social problems and transform lives. This work is both noble and never-ending. And, with a global health crisis wreaking havoc on communities and systems around the world, this work has become exceedingly more complex. The COVID-19 crisis has introduced a whole new set of problems to solve and has exposed challenges inherent in the social sector ecosystem that are prompting a rethink of how funders can best invest in organizations creating impact.

As the pandemic continues to threaten and disrupt lives and livelihoods, change-making organizations are simultaneously navigating a new normal of remote operations, dealing with resourcing shake-ups and managing influxes of service demands. Many nonprofits and public sector agencies were strained before the crisis, and now are experiencing an entirely new level of stress on their people and processes.

Many funders and philanthropists have been quick to respond to the crisis with increases or changes to their funding. In many cases, grant restrictions have been lifted, and new conversations are happening around how to best enable grantees to be effective through this challenging time.

In an April 2020 survey from Exponent Philanthropy, nearly 80% of funders reported that they have changed their approach to funding as a result of COVID-19. Additionally, Exponent Philanthropy found:

  • 72% of funders are making emergency grants outside of their foundation’s grant cycle
  • 64% of funders are converting existing grants to more flexible funds, such as changing project grants to general operating grants
  • 56% of funders are delaying or postponing reporting deadlines

What these data points are telling us is that funders are stepping up to offer their grantees greater flexibility at a time when social good organizations need to be agile, adaptive and creative in their life-changing work. But the big question is: will the trend of flexible funding and the emphasis on investing in nonprofit resilience continue when the current crisis subsides?

We believe it’s imperative that the answer is yes.

As Paula Morris, director of the Resilience Initiative, a project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, funded by the David and Lucille Packard Foundation, recently told Chronicle of Philanthropy, “If the nuts and bolts of the system are in place and solid enough, you can stay strong when tides are shifting outside.”

That’s the heart of it: nonprofits and social service agencies need a strong yet flexible foundation in order to operate with resilience, and funders are in a position to better support the creation and stability of that solid foundation that can be a springboard for impact.

If you are a funder or philanthropist, you are likely already making nimble and needed changes to ensure your grantees have what they need to ensure their mission is uninterrupted and that they can help people affected by COVID-19. As the crisis begins to give way to a new normal, we encourage you to take a hard look at the way you invest in change and explore whether there are ways to continue funding the long-term resilience and capacities of your nonprofit partners. Invite your grantees to have candid conversations with you about what they need and how they believe your funding could be most impactful for their organization and the people they serve. Make sure your nonprofit and agency partners know that if you say “we’re in this together,” that you mean it – for the long haul.

We will all be forever changed by the COVID-19 crisis. As these changes take root in the way we all operate, how will you find opportunities to make changes that will support long-term resilience across the social good sector?

Interested to see how we help funders and philanthropists unleash outcomes and support nonprofit resilience? Learn more about Social Solutions’ Funder Impact Program today.

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