Philanthropic sector getting its thinking and doing hat on for COVID-19

March 19, 2020

Written by Sue McCabe

Philanthropic funders are now heavily engaged in the impact of COVID-19 on the communities they support, and also the implications of declining capital returns, often the source of their grants and donations.

As a result, Philanthropy New Zealand is receiving many questions and tips from funders here and abroad. We’re also hearing from community groups concerned there will be an impact on the money they receive and concerned they won’t be able to deliver the services specified in contracts. Some are already taking a financial hit as they’ve needed to stop income-generating events (including Philanthropy New Zealand!).

Among the tips was the following list, which gives an insight into the way many philanthropists and grantmakers are thinking. We thank Wayne Francis Charitable Trust General Manager Jenn Chowaniec for the following list.

  • Don’t pull your business-as-usual funds to create special funds – you need to keep business-as-usual money flowing to charities.
  • Acknowledge the difficulty some of your grant recipients may have in delivering some contracts/programmes, particularly if they involve workshops/hui/group meetings. Offer to roll contracts over to the next year.
  • Simplify reporting and soften dates.  Small non-profits have small teams. Easing up on the reporting and giving extensions on deadlines will give more room for illnesses and absences.
  • Consider offering an additional year of funding without application, on the same terms and assuring flexibility in deliverables.  One charity has said: “For us our work is about to completely change in terms of how it is delivered, but not the intention behind it.  It would be a huge relief to not have to worry about funding applications in the next three to six months.”
  • Consider the wellbeing of workers and our communities.  What could be done in the short term to strengthen remote support?  Could some of the technology solutions offering web-based counselling have some effort and funding put into them? Are there online platforms typically used for work/webinars that could be re-purposed for fun and connection to battle isolation? Some funders are, or are linked to, corporate entities with more knowledge/ experience/access to IT/tech solutions. Share this knowledge.
  • Invest in and support the capacity of organisations. Capacity also includes looking at adding support around employment situations, sick leave, good practice, supporting internet into homes.
  • In the worst-case scenario, the death toll could be 1 in 50. Most charities won’t have reserves to meet their obligations for stress/anxiety/grief support.
  • Value the informal, proactive and relationship based pyscho social support that grass roots organisations can add to their local community, especially when there is a risk to ‘formalise a solution’ and prioritise programmatic or service-based responses. Sometimes organisations need the flexibility to read the needs of their local community to fill the gaps between programmes.
  • Grassroots organisations have flexibility and they will use it for the good of the community. They will ask – do we have vans? Can we do food delivery? Can we winter prep homes for those at risk? Is there a way to enable this?
  • Trading conditions will be hugely impacted for social enterprise. What opportunities are there and what are the new needs? Funders can help think outside the box.
  • Communicate but keep it short and simple – messages are coming from EVERYWHERE!
  • High trust relationships with funders and good leadership are the golden ticket again!
  • It’s a marathon not a sprint – just like the Canterbury earthquakes…déjà vu all over again!

For our funder members, we’ve started a forum on our Funder Members Hub where you can have discussions and post information in our hub. Also, check out our Helpful resources – COVID-19 page.

We’re organising zoom sessions for funders to discuss both their investment and their spending strategies. We’ll continue to share information on relevant events for community members.

And please, follow our Government’s advice to help you and others stay safe over the coming period.