Giving Compass' Take:

• At Philanthropy Daily, Martin Morse Wooster examines coronavirus' impact on lean philanthropy and how it might alter grantmaking in the future.

• What is lean philanthropy and how does it reflect funding across the sector? What are you doing to direct your giving in the most impactful way? 

• Look for resources to guide your giving to address coronavirus.

How will COVID-19 change philanthropic giving? It’s still too early to tell two months into the pandemic, but one sign comes from a survey recently released by Exponent Philanthropy.

Exponent, formerly the Association of Small Foundations, is an organization for funders who practice “lean philanthropy,” which it defines as “those who practice philanthropy with little or no staff.” In April, the organization surveyed 900 of its members about how the pandemic had changed their grantmaking and office culture.

The funders Exponent surveyed largely indicated that their grantmaking had increased and had become more flexible. 73 percent of those surveyed said they had made emergency grants, and an additional 13 percent were considering making these grants. Between 45 percent and 55 percent said they had expanded the range of grants outside of their traditional ones, given grants to organizations that helped support people affected by COVID-19, and contributed to local relief funds. Fifty-six percent of respondents are delaying or canceling reporting deadlines.

Here’s the big question: Will these changes be permanent? My guess is that remote work will be increasingly common, but I can’t imagine that remote working will completely control a future foundation office. In-person meetings provide information that simply can’t be gained through virtual meetings.

Foundations need to balance the need to be dynamic with the principle that “when it is not necessary to change, it is necessary not to change.” The COVID-19 pandemic will be good for foundations if it encourages rethinking about what their organizations ought to fund but bad if it means that in 2025 the primary commitment of most foundations, including ones formerly concerned with funding the arts or fighting poverty, is supporting spending on public health research.

Read the full article about lean philanthropy by Martin Morse Wooster at Philanthropy Daily.