This is part two of three in a CEP blog series in which leaders from eight foundations shared — in their own words — the most important changes they have made at their foundation since 2020 that they plan to sustain going forward. These funders’ stories, which can be read in full here, explore numerous changes on several dimensions. In each post in this series, we will explore changes centered around a particular theme — be it increased focus on advancing equity, greater flexibility and responsiveness, or more listening and collaboration. It’s our hope that the stories collected here foster learning and inspire further action.

For decades, many in philanthropy and nonprofit leadership have called for changes in foundation practice. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, many foundations quickly implemented changes in their practices, including being more flexible with and responsive to their grantees. These changes have been widely discussed, including in CEP’s series of three reports released in late 2020 and, more recently, in Foundations Respond to Crisis: Lasting Change?. As described in this report, most foundation leaders report that they are streamlining processes to reduce the burden on grantees and providing more unrestricted support — changes they say they will sustain. Many also reported increasing their grantmaking budgets in comparison to the prior fiscal year.

In the stories that eight funders shared in this series, many described making such changes, noting a desire to effectively address urgent needs, support their grantees, and ensure that their processes and grantmaking reflect their focus on equity.

Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, for example, launched a COVID-19 Women and Girls Response Fund, making “more than $1 million in emergency grants to 80 organizations across the state to address the needs of women and girls experiencing gender-based violence, to support older women, and to provide short-term financial support for everyday needs.”

In addition, the Foundation increased flexibility in grantmaking practices by ensuring that “100% of WFMN grants are being directed to general operations, allowing nonprofits greater flexibility in a time of uncertainty and heightened need, and for the long-term.” They also noted that they “are dedicated to investing in community through multi-year grantmaking whenever possible.”

Read the full article about increased flexibility and responsiveness by Chloe Heskett and Naomi Orensten at The Center for Effective Philanthropy.