We at EPIP Colorado have been keeping an eye on the COVID-19 related resources and thought pieces in philanthropy. We know many (but not all) who are involved in our chapter are early- to mid-career philanthrofolk. With that in mind, we thought we'd share some things we think can be done from various levels of positional power and influence. Even if you aren't in a position to make decisions about the recommendations below, we encourage you to share these ideas with your organization's leadership, and if possible, your board.
If you’re asking nonprofit staff or community members to sit on advisory committees or grantmaking committees - pay them. People are stretched thin, personally and professionally. And because funders are, appropriately, trying to figure out what communities really need, we’re asking people closest to, or representing, those communities to spend time informing us of those needs. This is the right thing to do. But let’s compensate people appropriately for their time.
Meet current commitments regardless of what happens in the market. Colorado nonprofits directly and indirectly employ 330,000 workers according to the Colorado Nonprofit Economic Impact Study. Organizations are supporting their communities and need all of the resources philanthropy has committed to support themselves and the people they serve through and beyond this crisis.
Increase payouts above 5% based on pre-COVID-19 numbers. We know the IRS requirement of 5% is a floor, not a ceiling. And there is not a penalty if funders make grants above 5%. It doesn't count if, due to the market's crash, and the reduction of investments or endowments, payouts are temporarily, and without action or intention, above 5%. While mathematically it might be true, that's not a reason to pat ourselves on the back. Get the money out the door, above the 5% payout calculated by pre-COVID-19 endowments and investments. If you are or were already doing that - thank you.
Convert all grants to general operating grants. This could even include capital grants depending on the recipient organization's need and work. If this isn’t possible, suggest making part of every project grant into general operating support, or allow flexibility around grant objectives.
Reassure grantees that general operating grants can be used for what's needed now. Think our grantees don't need to hear this message? Say it anyway.
Delay reports, but not payments. Unhook payments from grant reports, or push out deadlines into June, ideally, and then reassess.
Delay grant application deadlines. By 30 days, at least. And re-assess midway.
Provide no-cost extensions. Automatically grant these unless they'll be longer than 3 months from the original end date for all grants.
Don't cancel sponsorships or payments for events or conferences. Let grantees use those resources for what is needed now, or to cover costs already accrued.
Support rapid response funds. Several of these are being established. Philanthropy Colorado has a list of regional funds and is helping to coordinate a funder response fund. Even if your organization won't contribute, we highly recommend staying involved and informed so you can be a conduit of information to your networks and your grantees.
Support policy recommendations that will help Coloradans now. These include but aren't limited to moratoriums on evictions, rent hikes, rent & mortgage payments, and utility service termination; extended unemployment benefits; paid family leave; and paid sick leave. Remember, public and private foundations can fund groups that lobby (resource); public foundations can lobby (resource); and private foundations can't lobby but they can advocate (resource).
Contribute to funds supporting small businesses. According to a 2018 report by U.S. Small Business Administration: Office of Advocacy, titled “2018 Small Business Profile: Colorado”, small businesses employ about 1.1 million Coloradans. That's a lot of folks nonprofits serve who will be hurting as a result of both COVID-19 itself, and the country's response to the health and economic impacts of COVID-19.
Other recommendations from philanthropy: Many funders across the country have publicly shared what they’re doing to support grantees, such as the Ford Foundation, as well as many in Colorado, such as The Colorado Health Foundation and Bonfils-Stanton. The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy shared their favorite funder responses to COVID-19.
Language Access: Asian Pacific Development Center (APDC) has created a COVID-19 specific website and has also shared "In-Language Resources for COVID-19", which has tabs for 30 languages and counting.
Several other agencies and government groups are publishing COVID-19 resources in languages other than English. The City of Aurora now has a COVID-19 site where you can find a series of 3 fact sheets available in English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Nepali, Vietnamese. Burmese, Karen, Amharic, and Tigrinya sheets are still being translated and will be added if they haven't already. Although it's the city of Aurora, the fact sheets were created using CDC guidelines so it's not particular info just for city residents. And the Denver Public Schools site has information in several languages: https://www.dpsk12.org/coronavirus/faq-covid-19/.
People with Disabilities: Colorado Cross Disability Coalition (CCDC) has created a website for COVID-19 disability-related and vetted information. They have diverted staff to stay on top of communications. You can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Philanthropy Colorado continues to update its blog with resources and links to support nonprofits. Continue to check their website for updates!
For a Bit of Levity
See McSweeney’s Working From Home Global Pandemic Bingo.
And, Lastly, But Importantly
Let’s take care of ourselves, each other, and our communities. As Kevin Fong of Elemental Partners says in “Love in the Time of Corona,” practice social solidarity even while many of us must be physically distanced from each other. His reflections on what it means to love even in times of fear, as he experienced in the AIDS epidemic and crisis, are heartwarming, heartbreaking, and ultimately hopeful. As he says, “Perfect fear casts out all love. Perfect love casts out all fear.”