Yesterday, a panel of health and human services funders met at the Foundation Center, San Francisco to discuss funding in the new normal. The panel included:
- Fatima Angeles, The California Wellness Foundation
- Mark Cloutier, The San Francisco Foundation
- Hector Melendez, The Bothin Foundation at Pacific Foundation Services
- Jean Nudelman, Kaiser Permanente, Northern California Region
The panel was organized as the final component of Funding for Health & Human Services at the Foundation Center. Following is a recap:
The New Normal: What do the Numbers Tell Us?
In some cases, contributions have been maintained since the economic downturn.
Kaiser has maintained contribution levels, and one program area, to increase access to health care coverage for the previously uninsured, has grown.
Bothin, and other Pacific Foundation Services foundations, have seen slight improvements since 2008. In 2008 and 2009, grantmaking changed for many private foundations at Pacific Foundation Services. Some foundations narrowed their focus back to original program areas. Hector assured that these choices were thoughtful and data driven.
According to California Wellness, in 2007 their giving was at its highest: That year, they provided over $70 million in funding, whereas last year contributions were at $35 million. They have changed how many grants they make, but not how and what they give.
The San Francisco Foundation created the Safety Net Impact Fund in 2009 in recognition of the emergence of a new group that did not previously rely on safety net services before the economic crisis. While the market shows signs of recovery, the distribution of wealth is distorted. Overall, there is a 3% increase in what they can give out.
When it comes to first contact with a foundation, a little advice goes a long way. Panelists provided advice for organizations that are new to foundation fundraising. Most of the panelists advised submitting a Letter of Inquiry (LOI) before writing a full proposal. LOIs are used by program officers to determine whether or not an organization is a good fit as a funding partner. LOIs also prevent organizations from expending energy and resources. Hector stated that Pacific Foundation Services likes to receive a phone call from interested candidates; however, he advises that the candidate do the requisite preliminary research to get a better idea of funding areas first.
Strategies to Cope with Change
Some funders have developed innovative programs to help their grantees adjust to the New Normal. For instance, California Wellness has developed an annual conference focused on grantees focused on org learning and evaluation. They also fund a Sabbatical Awards program to provide respite to nonprofit executives. The San Francisco Foundation has a Nonprofit Transitions Fund to help organizations rethink and regroup in order to reduce costs and time spent on administrative work, as well as increase productivity.
In case you missed this panel, or would like to review it in its entirety, it was recorded and will be available shortly at the GrantSpace Multimedia Archive.