There’s no doubt that the coronavirus pandemic has changed the grantmaking landscape—both in the short term and even perhaps permanently—as foundations and organizations scramble to set up emergency grants, support their current grantees, and help everyone get through this crisis and to the other side. In fact, PEAK Grantmaking recently reported that 97% of organizations are considering changes to their grantmaking processes, while 63% are considering changing their grant priorities in the wake of COVID-19.

One issue that is front of mind for grantmakers is lessening the burden on grantees—making it easier for them to do work in their communities without barriers, worries or restrictions. Whether you’re making it easier for grantees to get grants from you, or you’re making it easier for current grantees to continue their work in new circumstances, there are a number of steps you can take and strategies you can implement to increase the impact of your funding and their work.

  1. Explore alternative forms of reporting and communication. With many teams going completely remote, and with paperwork slowing down processes, many grantmakers are using video conferencing tools, social media, and even the good old telephone in place of lengthy reports, big meetings and on-site visits.
  2. Ease requirements on existing grants. Your grantees are under huge amounts of stress. But their main focus should be on their final objectives, not on tracking and paperwork. Consider easing or eliminating requirements related to spending, reporting, timelines, outcomes and allocations.
  3. Consider offering general operating support, expanding your funding, or changing the scope of your funding. Your grantees may require technical support or infrastructure support as they all move to mostly remote work and adapt to the conditions of our emergency. They might have a completely different list of expenses and priorities than they did just a few weeks ago.
  4. Make grant modifications easy through extremely simplified processes. This is not the time for red tape. If your grantees request modifications, or if you suggest them, skip the formalities and get to your end result as fast as you can.
  5. Consider making grant payments sooner and/or expediting the timeline of future payments. Again, many traditional grantmaking rules may need to go out the window at this time, at least temporarily. Your ability to get money into the hands of grantees sooner could make or break their work.
  6. Create clear and abbreviated online forms and applications. In untroubled times, it’s important to have thorough applications that cover all your bases and get you information that you need for tracking and reporting in the future. But right now, especially in the cases of emergency or relief grants, your forms should be as short as possible and only ask for the most vital information.
  7. Ask your grantees what they need. The single best way to know how to lessen the burden on your grantees right now is to have an open and honest discussion with them about their needs and their roadblocks. Picking up the phone, or setting up a quick virtual meeting, is the best way to get started.

These strategies have been used by a number of large foundations in the past two months, and they are all working to ensure that communities get the help they need without interruption, as quickly as possible. In fact, many have banded together and pledged to make these and other changes to the grantmaking process during COVID-19 through organizations like the Council on Foundations.

At the heart of each one of these strategies are two core concepts: clear communication and creative, simplified processes. No matter what this pandemic has in store for us, and no matter what disruptions and emergencies the grant world will face in the future, we can stay innovative, positive and determined to keep creating change.

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