As the CEP report Foundations Respond to Crisis: Toward Greater Flexibility and Responsiveness finds:

Interviewees said they are now more attuned to the administrative burden of their processes. They said that they are more focused on building trust throughout their processes, and they are modifying elements of the application process to center equity and ensure access to applicants that otherwise might not have been eligible for grant support. They said they will maintain practices like simpler, shorter processes, reporting processes that are more commensurate with grant size, and less bureaucracy.

Those of you who have known PEAK since our “Project Streamline” days know that we did a big happy dance upon reading these findings. But when we continued reading, we were disappointed to learn that many more foundation leaders will not commit to keeping these new practices in place for the long term.

The way funders show up for their communities is through their grantmaking practices. Application processes, decision-making frameworks, grant structures and agreements, evaluation and monitoring practices, reporting requirements — these are the true, real-world manifestations of each funder’s values.

Last year, when shutdowns, closed schools, and an emerging threat to public health engulfed us all, and the lack of a coordinated national response failed us, many funders stepped up to support their communities, working as quickly as possible to get money out the door. The values on display in these efforts? Honor. Collaboration. Responsiveness. Trustworthiness. Dependability.

What did we see when, in the summer of 2020, police violence against Black people again entered mainstream awareness? Many funders pledged to provide more support to Black communities, to center racial equity, and to find and fund Black leaders. The values on display here? Equity. Awareness. Commitment. Justice. And, again, responsiveness.

Right now — as the deaths from the pandemic continue to grow, and as we reel from a majority-white mob invading the Capitol (and facing little resistance) with the goal of disrupting our democratic process — now is not the time for philanthropy to retreat from the commitments we’ve made, whether implicitly or explicitly, to enshrine our highest values in practice.

Are we going to be able to hold the line on the changes we’ve made to adopt more responsive and equitable practices? Are we going to be able to dedicate ourselves to continuous improvement? Or will grantmakers slide back into the complacency of the “normal,” even as outcomes for marginalized and oppressed communities continue to lag?

Read the full article about courageous practice change in philanthropy by Melissa Sines at The Center for Effective Philanthropy.