How Foundation Cooperation Impacted Nonprofits Facing a Pandemic

Last year, in a truly impressive show of camaraderie and innovation, foundations across the nation partnered to quickly meet the needs of nonprofit organizations serving those most affected by COVID-19.
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Last year, in a truly impressive show of camaraderie and innovation, foundations across the nation partnered to quickly meet the needs of nonprofit organizations serving those most affected by COVID-19. 

Rather than presenting grantee organizations with long applications and reporting requirements, in 2020 foundations loosened restrictions and collaborated with one another to provide immediate funding. 

In Oklahoma City, we saw this happen through the Central Oklahoma Funders’ Roundtable. Foundations partnered to provide a weekly grants cycle with just one application, so nonprofits could submit a single form and be considered by each of the foundations. Then, needs were discussed amongst the roundtable and funds were dispersed to support the organizations as fully as possible. McLaughlin Family Foundation, Sarkeys Foundation, and Inasmuch Foundation were each a part of this roundtable. 

Nationwide, this happened over and over. In June, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Ford Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation announced a joint commitment to increase their grants by more than $1.7 billion over the next two years. Above and beyond their previous commitments, these foundations granted in excess to meet nonprofits where they were at, providing relief in a pandemic and addressing social injustice. 

Of this effort, Ed Henry, President and CEO of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation said “Working with foundations across the country, we will drive forward with a reinforced dedication to our missions and step up our support to vitally important human services, public health, research, environmental, and arts and cultural organizations.” 

Furthermore, donors started donating to pooled funds at increased rates. According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, donors gave to pooled funds in areas they were passionate about, and organizations were able to apply to a single foundation for grants rather than completing numerous applications.

You might wonder, is this collaboration between foundations a one-time thing? We don’t think so. As foundations adapted to provide more speed and funding in 2020, they also began to offer more flexible regulations and declared that they would work to end the disparity of power between foundations and grantee organizations. 

By offering multi-year or unrestricted funding, foundations lessened the administrative workload needed to gain funding. In addition, many foundations lessened their strict reporting requirements, and some removed reporting altogether. Some foundations went so far as to adopt a pledge, titled A Call to Action: Philanthropy’s Commitment During COVID-19. Among this pledge were promises to eliminate restrictions on current grants, create unrestricted future grants, reduce reporting and site visits, and encourage regular communication. 

Even with a pandemic that has brought uncertainty, the response of foundations in 2020 has allowed countless nonprofits to keep their doors open and continue to serve the people most affected. Who knows, maybe 2020 will impact the whole future of grantmaking.


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