Piggy bank taped with writing CORONAVIRUS, Financial crisis and market crash

4 ways funders are supporting NGOs and responding to coronavirus

As coronavirus (Covid-19) causes unprecedented disruption on a global level, civil society organisations are being forced to respond quickly to protect their staff and partners, and adapt their programmes to support the communities they work in.

Many funders recognise that this crisis requires an overhaul of traditional institutional philanthropy practices, to allow for nimble and collective responses to the new challenges that we are all facing.

Here are a few things funders are doing to better support NGOs:

1. Standing in solidarity with civil society and collaborating

Funders are coming together and pledging to stand by their partners. They are listening to NGOs and adjusting their practices and mechanisms, enabling organisations to appropriately respond to this disruption.

Last week, more than 150 UK donors expressed their solidarity with civil society by signing the London Funders’ Covid-19 funder commitment. Hundreds of US foundations and European donors also came together to pledge their commitment to supporting NGOs and adjusting their practices accordingly.

New Philanthropy Capital (NPC) also gathered traction with private foundations in the UK and the US, through its guidance for philanthropists on how to best support charities through the crisis. The Association of Charitable Foundations is also sharing best practice and ideas for foundations on how to operate in the current context.

2. Increasing flexibility in current grant agreements

Flexible funding is more important than ever and many donors have adjusted their grant agreements with partners. The Ford Foundation, Esme Fairbairn Foundation, The National Lottery Community Fund and Comic Relief are amongst many donors that are:

  • relaxing reporting deadlines and making adjustments to reassure their grantees
  • allowing organisations to use money for overheads and sick pay
  • adapting activities and acknowledging that agreed timeframes will change and activities will be adjusted accordingly
  • in some cases, donors are allowing grantees to repurpose and pivot funds for urgent coronavirus-related needs.

Institutional donors, such as USAID and NORAD, are relaxing their reporting requirements, allowing for adjustments to budgets and activities, and are aware, that in many cases, there needs to be a case-by-case approach with the partner. As CIVICUS says in its open letter to donors: “It is an important sign of trust and recognition of the crucial role of civil society and civic action in our societies, now more than ever”.

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This crisis has thrown into relief the importance of flexible funding. Flexible funding permits organisations to act swiftly, innovate and respond to unpredictable situations while building a resilient base for the future. In a global context, prone to more crises, this may be the beginning of larger changes to institutional philanthropic practices.

3. Providing access to emergency funds

Over the last two weeks, the philanthropic sector has mobilised to provide emergency funding to civil society organisations worldwide.

In the UK, Civil Society News has collated some of the new funding being made available for charities during the Covid-19 pandemic. Among the donors are London Funders’ £2 million fund, Big Society Capital’s expected £100 million fund and GlobalGiving’s micro-grants. Organisations can use this funding for their most pressing needs in the next 30-60 days.

For a longer list of regional, national and international funds, check out these 71 sources of charity emergency funding.

4. Supporting efforts to combat Covid-19

Donors have quickly mobilised funds to strengthen the evidence base to help prevent and control the coronavirus pandemic. Many funders are also increasing research and response capacity, such as the Department for International Development (DFID) and The Wellcome Trust’s Epidemic Preparedness research call.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is making up to $100 million available to improve detection, isolation and treatment efforts and protect at-risk populations in Africa and South Asia, as well as accelerate the development of vaccines, drugs and diagnostics.

The Start Network has also launched a new Covid-19 aid fund to respond to critical virus-related humanitarian needs in low-income countries, kickstarted with funding from IKEA Foundation for €1.5M, whilst more donors are being approached.

Similarly, Elrha is launching an urgent funding call for research proposals to support the Covid-19 response in humanitarian settings. The call aims to fund public health research that will produce robust findings that will contribute to the effectiveness of the current humanitarian response and increase the evidence base for future responses to similar infectious disease outbreaks.

What else should donors be doing?

In these unpredictable times, it’s refreshing to see organisations and donors listening to each other, understanding that the challenges we face require new ways of working. Now more than ever, it is crucial these channels of communication remain open, strengthen and multiply as we navigate new and more complex challenges.

CIVICUS’s public letter calls on all donors and intermediaries providing essential support for civil society to adopt similar approaches by offering as much flexibility, certainty, and stability towards grantees and partners as possible.

At Bond, we’ll continue to have these conversations with our members through our funding-related working groups to better understand what the sector needs to remain financially resilient. Find out more about how we’re supporting the sector.