During the past year, we have seen an overwhelming show of support from the philanthropic community to help address the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only has there been an overall increase in giving, but many funders have loosened — or eliminated altogether — grant restrictions, allowing nonprofits to redirect staff time and resources to focus on responding to the crisis at hand.

While this approach has been both welcome and necessary, we should not lose sight of the fact that greater flexibility in funding is not only needed during a crisis. To ensure impactful and equitable partnerships between funders and nonprofits, this degree of flexibility needs to be the new normal in philanthropy.

As an organization that both gives and receives grants, PAI, where I serve as president and CEO, has a unique perspective on this dynamic. PAI is an international advocacy nonprofit that provides financial and technical support to 96 grantees in 33 countries working to expand sexual and reproductive health and rights in their communities. The guiding principle of our partnership model is rooted in our unwavering belief that sustained progress for women, youth, and vulnerable communities requires highly responsive, frontline efforts led by on-the-ground organizations and advocates. Grantees working with PAI identify what they need to achieve their goals, and PAI supports their efforts by providing flexible funding, advocacy support, technical insights and assistance, and strategic guidance.

It should come as no surprise that, in the past year, the needs of the grantees we partner with have shifted dramatically. The pandemic and related lockdowns led to the closure of offices and the end of work travel and in-person meetings. At the same time, many of the organizations PAI supports were called on by their governments to assist with national health responses, straining already limited resources.

PAI was able to swiftly respond to the rapidly changing needs of grantees by offering even more flexibility with existing grants, and by providing additional funding and guidance to support grantees’ COVID-related activities. This included investing in tools and equipment to facilitate working from home, support remote advocacy activities, and enable virtual monitoring of the availability of essential health services and supplies.

Read the full article about flexible funding by Nabeeha Kazi Hutchins at The Center for Effective Philanthropy.