April 9, 2020; LinkedIn (blog post)
We have been interested to see the variety of responses taken by philanthropy to the current crisis. As many readers know, we have been promoting the idea of foundations doubling their payouts this year, and indeed some are doing so, or at least increasing their grants budgets significantly. More have finally, in this moment, resolved to make general operating grants their general rule, to do away with reports and proposals, and make other concessions to the times.
But, let’s be real; not only are many organizations running deficits that are building day by day, there’s important and time-sensitive work to be done to advance social justice issues at a time of such profound disruption.
All of this is a lead-in to say we are seeing more foundations talking openly about what needs to be done in response. Some put it in terms of what they themselves are doing, as today’s feature describes, and others openly express frustration with those that could do more but choose not to for fear of eating into their own corpus and presumed immortality. We would place the following LinkedIn post from Bryna Lipper of the Humboldt Area Community Foundation in that latter category:
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I have a challenge for philanthropy. Stop talking. Send money instead of doing interviews and self-promoting expertise. The reason people care about you is because you have money to give. Not because you are smarter or know what’s better. Stop the talk. Send the money. Double your payout rates. Make 0% PRI/MRI loans…
Your money and your resources have a mission. Use them now.
We do agree with all of that, but we also think that maybe the “talking” is a good thing. At some point, if enough people are talking about a new standard that they are observing en masse, it becomes embarrassing to refuse to exit whatever parallel universe you happen to inhabit to understand this moment for what it is: a challenge to act differently.
We at NPQ are looking for payout rates much higher than average and investment in grassroots action for change. Once you have done that? Talk away!—Ruth McCambridge