Grantmaking during COVID-19

Mark PetersenNews

Last week the reality of the coronavirus pandemic began to settle in for those of us living in Canada. I admit I spent most of last week trying to keep up with shocking announcements that left me feeling both paralyzed and grief-stricken. I’m sure you did too.

But now is not the time for paralysis. We have hope that God is still at work, and He can work through private foundations which are established for the common good. The book of James advises, “When your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything.”

I’ve been inspired by communication with Brian Dijkema at Cardus (here and here) and Jeff Golby at ACTS, two charities doing good work in Canada and beyond. They both powerfully urged private foundations to act together now to stabilize the work of Canadian charities during the current uncertainty. While most of us have undoubtedly experienced significant impact in the value of our portfolios, private foundations typically are better protected from the downturns in the market. Regardless of any downturn, many still retain significant capacity to help if they adjust their giving frameworks at this unique moment as spring arrives and the impact of the virus is most critical.

In response, Stronger Philanthropy is offering the following package of services to facilitate the work of private foundations in providing grants to charities during COVID-19.

  • We are offering our online, cloud-based grants management system to private foundations and major donors based in Canada. Within this customized system, your foundation’s decision-makers will have full control over the selection of grants. You determine your priority areas and geographic limitations for funding, selecting recipients through a simple evaluation process retained within your family. Grantseekers apply through a common portal, freeing you from the demands of fielding many urgent requests. Current foundations now receiving applications include: Tamara Foundation, Redleaf Foundation, and River Dali Foundation. Others will also be added.
  • We can modify our comprehensive two-stage application process to facilitate a simpler one-stage model by which charities can receive capacity-building funding during this rough patch.
  • We offer optional due diligence on any grant requests you require. This involves a virtual site visit, a charity health dashboard, and a confidential written assessment provided to you.
  • We are waiving all fees for grantmakers to consult with us. If you need to discuss your foundation’s needs, you can make an online video appointment here.
  • We are offering a 50% discount for new grantmaker subscriptions to our grants management system when subscribing before June 30th. It is my personal pledge to allocate 100% of new subscription revenue as donations to Canadian charities dealing with the impact of the pandemic.
  • We are ready to offer this grantmaking platform for your charity partners within a week of subscribing.

While the above packages are designed to correspond to the individual priorities of each foundation, Stronger Philanthropy has a history of leveraging our relationships to encourage collaborative funding through grants we have traditionally awarded under the Stronger Together process. We are ready to renew this form of collaborative approach if foundations step up with pledges that specifically address challenges related to COVID-19. If so, we would modify our decision-making process to allow for online collaboration together. Let us know if you’re ready to work together in this way. Canadian charities are counting on us.

Finally, we have begun conversations within the broader grantmaking community in Canada. We are actively discussing appropriate responses to our new landscape, and you can count on our team at Stronger Philanthropy to be part of the solution. Despite the significant challenges, we’re convinced that this crisis will turn into opportunity as we let old models go and find new ones are emerging.

Though this crisis has taken us by surprise, foundations should not give blindly. Yet even in the fog of war, foundations must move quickly and responsibly. Our system has provided over $41m in 811 grants in our history, providing solid evidence of accountability for your philanthropy. We trust you will join with us to soften the impact of this pandemic on Canadian charities.