Charities in our circle have done an amazing job pivoting (re-imagining, redeploying) in response to COVID-19 within their communities.
Some holistic development charities are paring down programs to make sure their community simply has access to food and medicines. Some organizations are making significant staffing sacrifices to ensure their ministry will survive this crisis. One charity partner set aside longer-term goals and sent her staff a two-week strategic plan because that was all she could reasonably forecast. We are inspired and humbled by these and other responses from our charitable partners.
As a foundation, we have also begun to pivot. We’re asking: How does one grant in a time of unknowns? When due diligence trips, in-person meetings, monitoring and evaluation are not possible, how do donors make intelligent funding decisions? When charities can’t present three year strategic plans or predict program outcomes, how do they ask for funds? What is the foundation for good charity/donor partnerships in this season?
“Business as usual” in the philanthropic and charitable sectors is no longer possible due to travel restrictions and social distancing measures. For now, we are left with the trust we have in our partners. We trust that charities are serving as best they can at this time. And we trust that God’s Kingdom will advance even in the midst of this confusing and challenging new reality. A friend called this “trust-based philanthropy” and we think the term fits.
Over the last few weeks, we have been strategizing around how to proceed with granting this year in response to COVID-19. The Charis Foundation board of directors shifted our granting in four significant ways for the remainder of 2020:
1. Permission for 2020 gifts to be undesignated as needed
We recognize that many projects and programming planned for this year will be unable to proceed - either postponed or shut down entirely. In order to give our charitable partners maximum flexibility to use grants as needed, all 2020 grants will be considered as undesignated.
2. Increased our granting target for this year
At the outset of this crisis, we felt the call to lean into this season and do more rather than less. We have increased the granting budget for this year so we are better able to respond to our partners’ extraordinary needs.
3. Partners released from formal reporting
While our commitment to communicating regularly with our partners remains, we felt it necessary to remove any formal reporting requirements for the remainder of this year. Instead, we hope to connect with our partners on a more relational level, keeping lines of communication open outside of formal granting requirements. We want to know how they are doing in the midst of these remarkable and unsettling circumstances. We want to hear how God is moving and answering prayers. We want to know how we can pray.
4. Leveraging our balance sheet
We are exploring how we might use our assets to provide extraordinary financial support in this season. What can we do beyond our normal granting that flows from our return on investments. We typically give away approximately 6% of our assets in grants each year. What about the remaining 94%? How might that be used more strategically for kingdom purposes? Might we be able to use some of our balance sheet to provide loan collateral or loan capital to charities who face great difficulty in securing financial support from traditional lenders? This is definitely ‘outside-of-the-box’ thinking for us, but we are in the most ‘outside-of-the-box’ scenario of our lifetime.
The broader philanthropic community is also shifting. Donors are collaborating with one another with calls to action and COVID-19 response funds. Philanthropists are exploring how to provide long-term financial support that goes beyond traditional grants. Most charities and donors recognize that the financial implications of this pandemic will be with us for years. This will require finding new ways of relating to and serving our respective communities.
We look forward to a surge of imaginative and innovative thinking that brings hope and healing to the world in the name of Jesus.
Join us in prayer as The Charis Foundation and the wider donor and charity communities in Canada seek to respond to this crisis. If you’d like to share your thoughts with us, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.