Spotlight on Trends in Funding Guidelines

Carolyn S. Berkowitz, ACCP

As the situation surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rapidly evolve, corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts are being affected in unparalleled ways.

One trend that is emerging: Corporate funders are moving away from their standard funding guidelines to ensure that NGOs supporting pandemic efforts are getting the resources they need quickly and without red tape. Nonprofits need accessible funding to cover both increased demand and general operating expenses, without the usual restrictions of corporate funding.

Nonprofits partners are experiencing an exponential burden – community need is dramatically increasing while nonprofit budgets are shrinking. Gifts from individual donors represent ~70% of all nonprofit funding, and as donor investment portfolios decrease and unemployment soars, nonprofits are bracing for sharp decreases. Corporations who are increasing their philanthropic efforts are often filling the gap.

The Council on Foundations (COF) issued a Call to Action for foundations to change their business-as-usual funding processes in response to COVID-19.  Eight corporate foundations have signed on to date, including ACCP member T. Rowe Price Foundation. While written specifically for foundations, it contains pertinent guidance for all funders, including loosening restrictions on dedicated funds, reducing reporting requirements, prioritizing community-based emergency response funds, and supporting nonprofit advocacy efforts, among others.

Below are some examples and best practices our members are sharing with us right now – some with attribution and some not – regarding process changes they are making to address current needs:
  • Assurant has adjusted their funding to target specific NGOs on the front lines of the pandemic.
  • NetApp has increased their matching gift program for employee donations and is also considering designated, incremental grants.
  • Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Louisiana has launched COVID-19 specific funds through its Foundation, to help cover general operating expenses for those NGOs working to cover both immediate needs (food security, housing, etc.) and medium-term needs (family economic recovery). These expenses aren’t typically covered, but the Foundation realizes disaster and crisis response calls for more flexibility to meet community demands.
  • Both NetApp and MUFG Union Bank Foundation are evaluating their existing grants programs and/or signature programs to adjust the current focus – for instance disaster relief designations don’t always include pandemics.
  • Regions Bank has donated advertising to help nonprofit food banks share an urgent message addressing food insecurity.
Below are some other steps members are taking right now to expedite effective funding:
  • Repurposing sponsorship dollars and reassuring NGOs that funds can be retained and utilized to address current needs – particularly those forced to cancel or postpone events.
  • Convening and collaborating with other local funders to support the most impacted populations, particularly local children affected by school closures.
  • Assessing their local healthcare systems and supporting first responders.
  • Sharing technology resources with NGOs and providing pro-bono assistance, which includes information on distance learning, working remotely, software needed, expertise, and even webinars on issues such as public safety.
  • Moving up the timetable of funding for existing partners and considering frontloading support in the 2nd and 3rd quarters of the year.
  • If funding will be coming from a foundation, assessing the cash balances the foundation has on hand, and ensuring they can cover anticipated grant requests.

Please engage with our team either by posting in the ACCP Communities, or by emailing Dana Frazeur, to share examples of your work that can be instructive to others. We will only attribute the example to your company if you explicitly allow us to.

If you are an ACCP member, join the conversation in the ACCP Communities for the most up-to-date information, or you can access a compilation of our members’ press releases to learn about what others are doing.

Next up: Trends in Employee Assistance Funds

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