This week, The Nonprofit Center held its first grantmakers panel of this academic year. As the moderator, I got to ask a number of questions up front before opening it up for questions from the floor.
And even though I knew what the elephant in this room looked like, I intentionally held off asking about it until I made sure that the audience had heard what it needed to hear: what are the strategic priorities of the particular funders represented on the panel, how do they like to be approached (some phone call, some e-mail), what makes a proposal really sing (oh, little things like following they guidelines and being complete), what makes a proposal sink (oh, little things like not being things the organization funds or sending in an incomplete package—in fact, all of the funders, representing seven different funding bodies, estimated that at least 50% of applications received are incomplete), and more. (Check out our free tip sheet on common mistakes grantwriters make).
And then I asked it: Are any of you planning on an $85 billion bailout program for nonprofits in the region? Just kidding! I asked what their current projections and expectations are for how the present economy will affect their funding program. And three out of the four—all representing established, large foundations–responded that they weren’t anticipating an impact. The fourth–who represents the foundations of each of four different family members though that perhaps for two, maybe three, of the family members who stick close to the 5% line there would be an impact; but for fourth who give well beyond the 5% mark, there would be no change. The messages appear mixed: Robin Hood Foundation appears to have raised significantly less at its “gold standard” gala this past spring, but funders here are saying they are staying the course. From others, we are hearing cautionary tales and angst.
Let’s hear from you: What’s the view from where you sit?