The impact of COVID-19 on grantmaking practices

by | May 4, 2022

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The year 2020 will remain ever fresh in the minds of many for decades to come. The pandemic turned the world on its head as it wreaked havoc on countries, communities, industries and organisations alike. 

Just like every other industry, the nonprofit sector space had its feathers ruffled. There were changes in multiple areas such as the daily operations of grantmakers, funding budgets, grant management processes and even missions.

Two years down the line, it seems that the pandemic is at low tide and the chaos that characterised the era is a thing of the past. But did the changes that came with the pandemic also fade away with it? What lasting impact and influence did COVID have on grant management?

1. A pronounced shift to trust-based philanthropy

The leading effect of COVID-19 on grant management is that it nudged grantmakers to take significant steps towards trust-based philanthropy. The multiple social movements around the world for racial justice and the lop-sided effect of the pandemic highlighted this chasm. 

COVID hastened the activation of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives by grantmaking organisations. 

Moreso, the pandemic presented a ripe opportunity for grantmakers to readjust their relationships with grant recipients. It was necessary for them to see grantees as their partners in the mission to do good. Thus, it was expedient to disentangle the reporting process and eliminate any irrelevant questions or processes grantees previously had to grapple with.     

2. Acceptance of remote work

Another instance of COVID’s influence on grant management is the compulsion of organisations to embrace remote work. The pandemic forced physical offices to shut down and many in the worldwide workforce to work remotely for health and safety reasons.

Now, as the threat of the pandemic seems to be on the backfoot, there should be a massive return to the office and in-person operations. Right? 

Wrong! 

For many organisations in the non-profit sector, work-from-home is no longer “what we did to get by”. Instead, this aspect of the new normal has come to stay. We’ve all realised how much more productive we can be in our own environments. Not to mention the joys of work flexibility and the cost savings associated with remote work.  Companies are now normalising remote work and some have even gone as far as making it a concrete part of their organisation’s policy.   

3. Better surveying the grantee community 

The pandemic uncovered the unpleasant reality that grantmakers were largely disconnected from their communities. 

Each grantseeker faces unique challenges, depending on the size, experience and scope of their projects. Post-COVID grantmaking demonstrates an unshakeable resolve to steer away from general-approach grantmaking. Many grantmakers have checked in with grantees to get a clearer idea of what they need. The feedback from grant recipients has made for a better response to community needs in grantmaking.

Paying attention to the community and the grant recipients provides grantmakers with an enhanced understanding of any potential hurdles. This in turn gives the funders smarter ideas on how to support the grantees and their communities. 

Additionally, funders are currently displaying awareness that financial support isn’t all that matters to grant recipients. They’re making room for open and sincere discussions with grantees, giving the latter the latitude to air their views and voice their concerns. All these will lead to bespoke support from funders that can increase social impact.       

4. Increased use of technology

Grantmaking after COVID has borne witness to more use of technology than ever before. As a matter of fact, the heightened use of technology is one of the most rampant forms of impact felt across all industries due to the pandemic. The increased adoption of technology in the nonprofit sector was mainly in the form of:

  • Online grant application systems 
  • Review and selection software 
  • Robust online grant management solutions

The adoption of online tools helped many grantmakers easily fund and award grants. And, research shows that grant management software is expected to continue growing in popularity.   

5. Extension, improvement and flexibility

When the pandemic was in full steam, the world seemed to slow to a crawl. As unfortunate as it might sound, it indeed gave many grantmakers the rare opportunity, in terms of time and funds, to reflect. This reflection helped uncover any weaknesses in their operations. 

So, the grantmaking practices after the pandemic are a display of their efforts to improve their internal policies and procedures. Most organisations have taken responsibility for a thorough evaluation of their grant programs with the aim of enhancing the grantmaking process by realigning the policies and procedures.

Additionally, some organisations have found opportunities to conquer new coasts, extending into novel frontiers to grow their mission.

COVID has so influenced the nonprofit sector that while some grantees are recording increased demands for their services, others are on the shallow end. Consequently, post-COVID grantmaking is characterised by flexible and constructive work to develop suitable and positive solutions. 

The flexibility takes various forms including: 

  • Adjustment of timelines, processes and payment schedules
  • Tweaking of grant agreements
  • Creation of alternate key performance indicators, milestones and outcomes
  • Change of mode of delivery for funded programs

Just as grantees are exploring new coasts, grantmakers are working with grant recipients to shift their focus to newer concerns.

6. Collaboration in grantmaking

Another notable grantmaking practice to grow post-COVID is the alliance of funders. Grantmakers are banding together, primarily by supporting combined relief funds–especially when it came to pandemic-related efforts. Some created their own rapid response fund, while others contributed to other organisations. Whether local, regional or national, the relief funds created by grantmakers have indeed recorded significant contributions from other grantmakers. 

These funders are teaming up with one another by leveraging relationships nurtured over time. However, the affiliation isn’t only between grantmakers. These grantmakers are taking a bold step to provide the necessary aid for grantees to form partnerships. This aspect of this practice came to be because so many nonprofits helped on the COVID battlelines.

Though the threat of the pandemic seems to be dissipating, the practice has endured.

In closing 

Grantmaking after COVID is, at its core, the embodiment of a new perspective through thoughtful partnerships and communication and realignment all in the bid to do good. The pandemic was an eye-opener. And, grantmakers have adapted by hastening the dispersal of funds and taking into cognisance the racial, social and economic variables when planning their charitable activities. 

 The influence of COVID on grant management has provided a fresh take on the entire grant lifecycle, from strategy and planning to applications, evaluation, reporting and the work and culture in between it all. 

 

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