A post to Exponent Philanthropy's blog

Lean Funders Are Adjusting Grantmaking and Operations to Respond to COVID-19: Week of May 19

On Friday, May 15, Exponent Philanthropy hosted another live discussion for lean funders to share how they’re responding to COVID-19. We’ll continue hosting these discussions every Friday at 2 p.m. EST to give all lean funders the opportunity to connect around their responses. We are also compiling COVID-19 information and resources relevant to lean funders.

Lean funders are responding to COVID-19 in varied ways, while recognizing the virus, response, testing, treatments, medical supplies and community needs are ever-changing.

On May 15, funders discussed:

Putting the marginalized front and center

COVID-19 has brought many societal inequities to light, and some funders are focusing their support on highly vulnerable communities.

Nicole Baran of The Peggy and Jack Baskin Foundation said, “Instead of funding widely and hoping some of that reaches the margins, we put funding the people at the margins at the center of our work.”

Government programs are aimed at helping huge swaths of the population, and philanthropy is well positioned to offer targeted support to those most in need.

Funding the arts

Some may think the arts are nonessential right now. But funders said supporting the arts goes beyond just the art. By supporting arts organizations, you’re supporting the people at those organizations.

Catherine Schwoeffermann of the Stewart W. and Willma C. Hoyt Foundation said, “The arts community stepped up for everyone at the start of this pandemic, and they continue to provide a sense of community.”

Arts organizations are major economic drivers for many communities. Plus, we can thank the arts for all of the content we’re currently consuming.

Supporting staff

Funders also raised more ways board members can support foundation staff.

Some foundations have flexible or reduced hours to help staff manage their new work-life balance. And one foundation said it’s providing increased support for mental health services for staff to help them better manage their stresses and anxieties at this time.

Continuing new practices

Funders are examining the practices they’ve put in place during the pandemic that they want to continue. Whether better collaboration, streamlined applications, faster approvals, or getting money to grantees more quickly, funders are taking stock of their improvements.

Diane Brown of the Community Foundation for South Central New York said, “We’ve proven to ourselves and our grantees that we can be nimble and responsive. Why shouldn’t we do that moving forward?”

Connect with peers on Fridays at 2 p.m. EST at our weekly discussions on funder responses to COVID-19.

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