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Grantmakers unite in best practices

by Libby Berke

One of the bright lights in all the confusion in recent weeks has been the emergence of an 8-point pledge that has been signed by nearly 800 grantmaking foundations and organizations in an effort to respond rapidly and proactively to the crisis. Originally proposed by the Ford Foundation and the Trust-Based Philanthropy Project, the pledge quickly grew legs and has been signed by funders with both domestic and international giving focuses.

Much like the geographic coalitions of states we’ve seen come together, this group response makes for a much more powerful response and paves the way for better outcomes and a quicker recovery. There are also many lessons in here for non-foundations to carry into their own response teams. Brands with a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) teams would do well to consider these pledge criteria and how it can carry over into their response and philanthropy.

The pledge:

Over the days, weeks, and months ahead, each of our foundations pledges to:

  • Loosen or eliminate the restrictions on current grants. This can include: converting project-based grants to unrestricted support; accelerating payment schedules; and not holding grantees responsible if conferences, events, and other project deliverables must be postponed or canceled.

  • Make new grants as unrestricted as possible, so nonprofit partners have maximum flexibility to respond to this crisis. We will also support organizations created and led by the communities most affected that we may not fund currently.

  • Reduce what we ask of our nonprofit partners, postponing reporting requirements, site visits, and other demands on their time during this challenging period.

  • Contribute to community-based emergency response funds and other efforts to address the health and economic impact on those most affected by this pandemic.

  • Communicate proactively and regularly about our decision-making and response to provide helpful information while not asking more of grantee partners.

  • Commit to listening to our partners and especially to those communities least heard, lifting up their voices and experiences to inform public discourse and our own decision-making so we can act on their feedback. We recognize that the best solutions to the manifold crises caused by COVID-19 are not found within foundations.

  • Support, as appropriate, grantee partners advocating for important public policy changes to fight the pandemic and deliver an equitable and just emergency response for all. This may include its economic impact on workers, such as expanded paid sick leave; increasing civic participation; access to affordable health care; and expanded income and rental assistance. It should also include lending our voices to calls to action led by grantee partners, at their direction and request.

  • Learn from these emergency practices and share what they teach us about effective partnership and philanthropic support, so we may consider adjusting our practices more fundamentally in the future, in more stable times, based on all we learn.

If your brand has a CSR arm or ethos, think about each of these. Are there policies you have that you can bend, suspend, or change to broaden, hasten or amplify your reach? Can you lend your voice to amplifying public policy efforts that will do the same? Are you making sure that the voices communities you are hoping to support are being heard and considered before you act? What are you learning from your attempts? And the hardest one of all for brands – are you willing to share with others your failures as well as your successes so that others may learn from both?

And if you don’t have a CSR effort? There’s no better time than now to start one and this pledge is a great checklist of issues to consider.

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