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A Call to Funders to Increase Giving in an Unprecedented Time

Date: April 2, 2020

Phil Buchanan

President, CEP

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The unprecedented challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic are upending norms in the United States and around the globe. We’re all doing things we never imagined doing. And we are doing them in the interest of the greater good.

In order for philanthropy to respond adequately to this moment, endowed private foundations will need to challenge conventional thinking about spending and increase their giving for a period of time. I am pleased to see announcements in recent days that suggest that some foundations are doing just that.

Today, I am proud to join with leaders of eight other philanthropy-serving organizations in issuing a joint statement calling on foundations to significantly increase their grant spending during this crisis. The statement is being issued jointly by the leaders of BoardSource, the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP), the Council on Foundations (COF), Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO), Hispanics in Philanthropy (HIP), Independent Sector, the National Center for Family Philanthropy (NCFP), the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP), and United Philanthropy Forum.

Statement Encouraging Increased Giving In This Time of Crisis

As leaders of philanthropy-serving organizations in this unprecedented moment of challenge for our country and globally, we applaud the efforts by foundations to be responsive to the needs of nonprofits and the communities and causes they serve. We strongly endorse the pledge signed by more than 460 foundations to loosen restrictions on grantees during this time and generally to be as flexible as possible.

Yet what nonprofits need most right now is more money. Without rapid and meaningful infusions of additional resources, many organizations will have to dramatically pare back programs and services or fold their operations entirely — and the results for the economy, vulnerable populations, communities, and progress on crucial issues will be devastating.

The CARES Act and other stimulus packages passed recently by Congress include wide-ranging supports for nonprofits and low-income people. And yet these funds may be difficult to access and still will not meet the needs.

We’ve been heartened that some foundations and corporate giving programs are increasing their grants at this crucial time. We call on all funders to consider joining them by significantly increasing their grant spending during this crisis. Organizations helping and empowering the most vulnerable, those closest to the financial precipice with limited operating capital or reserves, and those with significant earned revenue streams or that rely on small gifts from individual donors are facing significant challenges. Organizations serving communities of color are also going to need extra resources as they deal with skyrocketing unemployment for all racial groups and particularly for black, indigenous, and Latinx communities, and with Asians and Pacific Islanders facing xenophobia.

Deploying philanthropic assets to strengthen vital organizations doing crucial work in extremely challenging circumstances is more important right now than preserving endowment capital. The strength of a funder’s grantees at the end of this crisis will be a much better measure of the significance of a foundation than the size of its endowment. Unprecedented challenges require unprecedented responses — and a casting aside of traditional norms and approaches.

Ana Marie Argilagos, President & CEO, Hispanics in Philanthropy

David Biemesderfer, President & CEO, United Philanthropy Forum

Phil Buchanan, President, Center for Effective Philanthropy

Dan Cardinali, President & CEO, Independent Sector

Aaron Dorfman, President & CEO, National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP)

Kathleen Enright, President & CEO, Council on Foundations

Nicholas A. Tedesco, President & CEO, National Center for Family Philanthropy

Anne Wallestad, President & CEO, BoardSource

Marcus Walton, President & CEO, Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO)

Phil Buchanan is president of the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP). Follow him on Twitter at @philxbuchanan.

Editor’s Note: CEP publishes a range of perspectives. The views expressed here are those of the authors, not necessarily those of CEP.

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