As I read “What’s Not Changing (Much) in Funder Practice: Multiyear GOS” on the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) blog, I found the advice for foundations considering multiyear general operating support (GOS) really resonated with our experience at the Sewall Foundation. Specifically, “align[ing] foundation processes, systems, and culture to encourage more multiyear GOS grantmaking” is at the core of many shifts and explorations that we have and continue to undertake. In December 2021, the Sewall Foundation board of directors approved our first multiyear budget, which includes three years of approved grants budget, while our operations budget is brought to our board each year.

Why a Multiyear Budget?

While the Sewall Foundation has provided both multiyear and GOS grants for some time, we felt that to be fully transparent with our grantees, we always had to add the caveat of “depending on board-approval of next year’s budget.” While our board has been supportive of multiyear funding, we knew that saying “trust us” to grantees and the communities we serve when it comes to funding was not a power-aware position to take. Understanding that multiyear and GOS are key best practices in philanthropy, and cornerstones in equity-focused and trust-based philanthropy — and that they “provide nonprofit organizations with stability and position them to grow their impact by enabling nonprofits to plan, to flexibly use resources where they are most needed, and to do the long-term work of addressing systemic and complex social issues,” as described by Naomi Orensten in the above-mentioned CEP blog post — meant that we needed to create internal structures and processes that could sustainably harness these practices.

Thus, the primary drivers for the creation of a multiyear budget were to:

  1. Create the necessary internal structural and process changes needed to increase general operating support (GOS) and multiyear grants;
  2. Allow a greater degree of transparency, consistency, and planning for our grantees, the communities we serve, and ourselves; and
  3. Become better partners to the organizations working in and with the communities we strive to serve by walking the talk of trust-based philanthropy.

Read the full article about reimagining internal structures and processes by Gabriela Alcade at The Center for Effective Philanthropy.