I’ve been thinking recently about what’s changed since March 2020 when it comes to the nonprofit sector; foundation and individual giving; and my take on leadership. This is the second post in a three-part series.

While the general public’s trust in nonprofits has declined, as I discussed in my last post, foundations — and some of the very biggest individual donors — have moved in the other direction, trusting nonprofits to an extent we have not seen before. In so doing, they demonstrated the role that they can play as a force for good and a provider of crucial resources to nonprofits on the front lines in a time of crisis.

Admittedly, there’s no “trust barometer” for foundation staff’s views of nonprofits. However, the data suggests that, in the past two years, staffed foundations acted differently, and more trustingly, than they had before. At CEP, we tracked foundation changes during 2020 and 2021 and, in November of 2021, we reported that virtually all foundation leaders who responded to our survey said their foundations are working differently now than in early 2020 in ways that suggest greater trust in nonprofits and attentiveness to the particular challenges nonprofits face in working with funders. (Even allowing for possible response bias, there is strong evidence of real change.)

Most frequent among the changes reported were streamlining processes to reduce the burden on grantees and providing more unrestricted support — changes these foundation leaders say they will sustain. A survey of our nonprofit panel suggested that nonprofits were indeed experiencing these changes, offering some corroboration.

These efforts to reduce restrictions and requirements were no doubt fueled both by recognition of the practical challenges nonprofits were facing and by the advocacy of many over the years for this kind of change, including those behind the “trust-based philanthropy” movement. For many of those foundation leaders who were contemplating moving in this direction, the crises of 2020 became the burning reason to just make it happen. And for some who had been steadfastly set in their ways, the pandemic was a needed wake up call.

Read the full article about trust by Phil Buchanan at The Center for Effective Philanthropy.