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Before and After 2020: How the COVID-19 Pandemic Changed Nonprofit Experiences with Funders

Nonprofits are experiencing meaningful changes in the practices of funders since 2020, according to this CEP report.
Katarina Malmgren

Katarina Malmgren

Former Associate Manager, Research, CEP

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Data from funders who solicited grantee feedback both before and after 2020 reveal a greater degree of change than what was typical prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, suggesting that 2020 was a watershed year for grantmakers.

Based on analysis of data collected from 61 U.S.-based repeat users of CEP’s Grantee Perception Report (GPR), a feedback tool funders commission to gather candid, comparative feedback from grantees, two distinct patterns were evident in grantee responses. Firstly, grantees report spending less time on application and reporting processes than they were before the pandemic and, secondly, funders are providing slightly more unrestricted support than prior to 2020.

These changes are consistent with past trends observed in repeat GPR users; however, it is notable that the scale of the change in this analysis, in which the first GPR took place prior to 2020 and the second took place in 2021 or 2022, is larger. This suggests that nonprofits are indeed experiencing shifts in funder practice even beyond what we normally see, at least in their experiences with foundations committed to listening to and acting on grantee feedback. This is in line with self-reported changes from funders themselves, as seen in previous CEP reports. This data is also consistent with shifts reported by nonprofits in a separate study CEP conducted based on its grantee survey panel earlier this year.

While it will take years to fully understand the durability and degree of change in philanthropic practice, this research is a positive indicator that the events of 2020 have indeed shifted funders’ practices, motivated by a desire to better respond to the needs of grantee organizations.

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