Nov. 22, 2021 7:45 am

How philanthropy will be different (and the same) after the pandemic

A process called trust-based philanthropy is in. Don't expect your post-grant reports to go away though.

Will future philanthropy events look like this 2018 conference from the Philanthropy Network?

(Photo by Julie Zeglen)

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Move faster. Be choosier. 

In 18 months of pandemic disruption, philanthropy has changed. What will return? What won’t? Over the next few weeks, I’ll be in your inbox to talk about what’s next for stakeholders in philanthropy: funders, donors and fundraisers. Today, a look at funders, backed by conversations I’ve had with several local community foundations and other national trends. This Generocity newsletter expects one thing though: please respond with your own feedback!

Many report continued focus on trust-based philanthropy — an effort to address inherent power imbalances between philanthropists and grantees. Amid the intertwined crises of 2020, many foundations cut their application processes and disbursed funds more quickly. Funders report they won’t return to older, lengthier processes, and want to listen closer to grantees. Hallelujah!
Many funders also report diversifying the organizations they support. They’re looking for BIPOC-led organizations, diverse boards that include those with lived experience and programs that are built on feedback from the communities they support. Sometimes that means they’re adding additional support so they can widen the number of grants they make. It can also mean they’re ending relationships with some nonprofits to focus on others. They’re getting choosier: if your staff, leadership and work doesn’t mirror the communities served, divest.

What will return? Post-investment reporting. At the end of the day, funders are beholden to boards. Their boards are just as quick (or slow) to change as nonprofit boards are, which means that many funders are still looking to see impact statistics and demographics data that is not always easy for nonprofits to collect. One one hand, I totally get it. You can’t keep track of whether your funding is achieving what you want it to without some kind of data that proves it.

On the other hand, grant reporting is one of my least favorite activities. No matter how clear I am with programming folks about what needs to be tracked, no matter how many processes we establish to get the data that each unique funder needs, things always go awry. Program participants don’t want to share their demographic data, staff are under pressure and unable to complete extra forms or paperwork, or the numbers we tracked don’t tell the story we were hoping they would tell.

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So, what’s next for funders? Shorter applications, quicker decisions, more diversity in those they fund — and not many changes to grant reporting. Despite the many challenges the pandemic presented, our funders have really stepped up and made many changes that will benefit the nonprofits they support, so make sure to thank your funders for their efforts!

What else do you think is on the horizon for funders? Let me know where you’re at by sending me an email.


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