This is a question that I and my team have been getting a lot lately. COVID-19 is truly unlike anything that has been experienced by anyone living, both in its threat and in the protective steps taken by governments, businesses, and individuals. The unprecedented nature of COVID-19 honestly makes predicting its impact difficult. I have waited before posting about Coronavirus until I could see how many funders would react to give you the best information possible. Here are my top 5 observations and predictions for COVID-19 and grants:
1. Many large foundations are shifting their funding to COVID-19 response. The large foundations are focusing on system-changing opportunities like the development of vaccines or treatments or predictive models. The ability of foundations to make program-related investments, or investments in for-profit companies for public good, is allowing this to happen. This will likely mean less funding to non-profits from the largest foundations in the country.
2. Many local foundations are creating COVID-19 emergency grants. Many of these foundations are limiting these grants to “existing grantees”, which is why having good, real relationships with funders is so important. Other foundations have opened up their funding to other non-profits, which is a great opportunity to “get in the door” if your organization has a significant role in Coronavirus response. I have seen many of these foundations focus on healthcare, helping businesses, helping people have access to food and necessities, and helping people who have lost their jobs.
3. While COVID-19 is unprecedented, many foundations are maintaining their “personality” and preferences. If a foundation has given deep and above the 5% minimum in past times of crisis, they are continuing to do that in COVID. If a foundation has been conservative based on future stock market projections, then they are being conservative and pulling back on grants during Coronavirus. If a foundation has funded operating support in the past, they are likely now “leaning in” to provide operating support for hurting nonprofits. If a foundation has wanted to fund new initiatives in the past, then they are likely now focusing their giving on specific COVID initiatives. If you can, talk to your foundation officers to identify their preferences in this time.
4. Most foundation staff are working from home. Try reaching them by email or cell phone if you are fortunate enough to have their phone number. Remember to be extra kind when communicating; their lives are upside down now too.
5. Funding will be more competitive, yet opportunities abound. There are more people seeking emergency funding right now, and there will ultimately be limited resources. However, there are more application opportunities because of COVID-19. You need to submit as many competitive, well-matched applications as possible to be successful.