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Effective Matters: Resources for Funders During This Challenging Time

Date: April 22, 2020

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The COVID-19 pandemic has upended norms in the United States and around the globe, and nonprofit organizations and the populations and communities they serve find themselves in especially precarious situations. This newsletter shares some of the resources the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) and our peers have developed recently that may be helpful to philanthropic funders as they seek to focus their efforts and most effectively support organizations and individuals in need right now.

Join CEP and the Council on Foundations Tomorrow for a Webinar on Listening to Nonprofits During Disasters

In this free webinar hosted by COF and CEP tomorrow at 2 pm ET, funders will hear from experts in the field about learning from their nonprofit partners and developing a culture of listening at their foundation — while at the same time building mechanisms that can withstand emergencies and improve disaster response and grantmaking. Key topics covered will include what a commitment to listening — especially to those least heard — looks like for grantmakers, how grantmakers can incorporate feedback into their practices, what some of the common challenges to creating a feedback culture are (and how can they be broken down), and how foundations can sustain these practices beyond COVID-19.

Speaking on these topics will be CEP Vice President, Assessment and Advisory Services, Kevin Bolduc; COF President and CEO Kathleen Enright; Sacred Heart Community Service Executive Director Poncho Guevara; Raikes Foundation Executive Director Dennis Quirin; Ekouté Consulting Principal and Listen4Good Managing Director Valerie Threlfall; and William and Flora Hewlett Foundation Vice President and Fund for Shared Insight Co-Chair Fay Twersky.

CEP and Eight Peer Philanthropy-Serving Organizations Issue Joint Statement Calling on Funders to Increase Grant Spending

In order for philanthropy to respond adequately to this moment, endowed private foundations will need to challenge conventional thinking about spending and consider increasing their giving for a period of time, according to a group of philanthropy-serving organization (PSO) leaders.

Earlier this month, CEP President Phil Buchanan joined with leaders of eight other PSOs in issuing a joint statement calling on foundations to significantly increase their grant spending during this crisis. The statement was originated 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 (UPF).

Indeed, several foundations and corporate giving programs are increasing their grants at this crucial time, including Libra Foundation (which is doubling its grantmaking in 2020) and Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation (which has extended existing grants by one year and sent all grantees an additional $10,000 in general support). In a webinar conversation hosted by NCFP last week, Libra Executive Director Crystal Hayling and MRBF Trustee Mary Mountcastle joined Hill-Snowdon Executive Director Nat Chioke Williams, NCFP President and CEO Nick Tedesco, NCRP Executive Director Aaron Dorfman, and CEP’s Buchanan to discuss how funders can approach increasing their payout in this time of crisis — and, in the case of the funders on the panel, what led them to take this action. You can watch the recording of the webinar in full here.

CEP Resources to Help Inform Rapid-Response Efforts

CEP has designed a new rapid-response survey for individual foundations, recently established recovery and response funds, or groups of funders working in the same communities or fields to use to gather feedback. Funders can use these publicly available survey questions to assess how organizations have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and to seek input about how they can deploy their resources to best support those organizations right now.

CEP’s hope is that these questions can be a useful guide for individual conversations, or a part of any surveys that funders implement. We welcome you to use and share them.

Additionally, if you are seeking to save staff time and resources, this survey can also be commissioned through CEP’s rapid-response feedback tool and deployed at any time. Comprehensive, candid, and confidential feedback from community partners will continue to be important to target resources where they are needed the most over the weeks and months ahead.

To learn more about this survey or partnering with CEP to administer it, contact CEP Director, Assessment and Advisory Services, Austin Long.

Available to Watch: A Conversation on Leading in Crisis

What does good leadership in crisis look like? In this time of unprecedented challenge, what can philanthropic and nonprofit leaders learn from the great leaders of the past?

Nancy F. Koehn, business historian and James E. Robison Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, and CEP President Phil Buchanan explored these and other key questions about leading in a time of crisis — with a particular focus on the challenges facing those in philanthropy and nonprofits right now — in a webinar conversation earlier this month. (CEP’s Grace Nicolette shared welcoming remarks and facilitated Q&A.) We have made the recording of the webinar available, and you can now watch it in full here.

As Koehn reminded us in the discussion, people are looking to those around them for guidance and support during this unparalleled time of challenge, and now is the time for leaders at all levels to step up. “You’ve never been needed more than you are now, and you will never be needed more than you are now,” Koehn says.

We hope that the insights from this hour-long conversation will be useful to leaders as they seek to guide their organizations through a singularly difficult time and continue the vital work that they do. For more on leadership, you can also check out these 15 suggestions Buchanan shared on Twitter in March.

Supporting Our Unsung Heroes: Stories of Nonprofit Leaders, Staff, and Volunteers on the Frontlines

In an ongoing series on the CEP blog, Phil Buchanan has been sharing stories of nonprofit leaders doing vital work on the frontlines of their respective communities, documenting what their organizations are experiencing in this moment, and offering insights into what funders can do to help them right now.

In the first post in the series, Buchanan talks with Cathy Moore of ECHOS, which continues to serve the most vulnerable in its community of Houston every day in the face of what is now unprecedented demand. Staff at ECHOS can’t afford to work from home, and many vulnerable individuals rely on the resources and services they provide.

The second post looks at the challenges faced by UTEC as they work to help the “most disconnected young people” in its communities of Lowell, Lawrence, and Haverhill, Massachusetts, even as the organization faces the huge challenge of no earned revenue coming in through its social enterprises.

In the third post, Buchanan profiles a San Francisco arts organization called CounterPulse and its leader, Julie Phelps, to discuss the ways in which different revenue mixes and levels of reserves affect nonprofits’ vulnerability in this moment.

And in the fourth and most recent post, Buchanan discusses the costs all of us will bear if organizations like World Relief Seattle are not able to do their vital work.

The stories of organizations like ECHOS, UTEC, CounterPulse, and World Relief Seattle illustrate the tenuous positions nonprofits in communities all around the country find themselves in right now. Buchanan argues that donors should take extraordinary actions in this moment to help them weather the storm and serve their communities and clients.

Also on the Blog…

The Fund for Shared Insight team of Valerie ThrelfallFay Twersky, and Melinda Tuan offer a roadmap with seven concrete suggestions for funders seeking to act on their commitment to listen to grantees and affected communities right now.

BoardSource President and CEO Anne Wallestad writes that significantly increasing payout right now is not just an important decision, but more specifically an important board decision, for foundations — and shares several essential questions to guide boards through this process.

Ruth Levine, policy fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University, argues that global research funders need to commit to full flexibility right now to free up the existing research infrastructure to serve the coronavirus response around the world in powerful ways.

The Whitman Institute Co-Executive Director John Esterle discusses how a changing context is demanding philanthropy to rethink its approach — and how the principles of trust-based philanthropy offer a way forward.

CEP’s Ethan McCoy draws on data about nonprofit recession planning from a recent CEP study, arguing that the economic disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic only adds greater urgency to the previously existing desire among nonprofit leaders to have conversations with their foundation funders about surviving a downturn.

Partner Resources

For funders, this memo from Bridgespan outlines opportunities for philanthropic responses to the crisis, both in terms of addressing immediate needs and also laying the groundwork for the long-term recovery efforts needed in the days ahead. Council on Foundations has also built a resource hub with information on topics ranging from legal and policy FAQs to response funds in the U.S. and around the world.

For nonprofits, Tough Times Call for Tough Action, a new resource from SeaChange, lays out a concise summary of best practices for nonprofit boards and leaders right now as they grapple with the current situation. Nonprofit Finance Fund has also compiled a collection of tools and resources full of practical advice and guidance.

And for both funders and nonprofits alike, BoardSource has put together a resource page with insights into how organization leaders and their boards can work together to effectively respond to COVID-19, both in terms of continuing to pursue their missions and enduring the crisis themselves.

Support CEP

CEP is able to create and disseminate our resources thanks to our foundation funders and individual donors. If you find value in CEP’s work, we hope you’ll consider supporting us with a gift. Supporting CEP means supporting more effective philanthropy during this critical time.

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