A new survey reveals nonprofits are struggling to cover salaries and operational costs, due to the COVID-19 crisis. Andrew Sadauskas examines how philanthropy can help.

Staff and operational costs are putting pressure on grant seekers.

Staff and operational costs are putting pressure on grant seekers.

Nonprofits are calling on philanthropists to provide more assistance with their operational costs and staff salaries during the COVID-19 crisis.

Additionally, providing more flexibility and clarity around funding intentions are vital ways philanthropists can help grant-seekers through the pandemic.

The findings come from a COVID-19 survey undertaken by The Grants Hub during April, titled ‘What Grant Seekers Need’. In total, 213 people from 98 grant-seeking organisations completed the survey.

The survey asked about grant seekers’ needs across three key areas: funding, resource savings and pro-bono/voluntary support. It also asked respondents if they had any messages for funders.

How can philanthropists help charities and nonprofits during the COVID-19 crisis?

Key findings of the report include:

  • 72% of respondents say it would be very helpful if funders verified their intentions around giving in 2020
  • one-in-three respondents identify funding for operational costs as their most critical need. Many say these are the best ways grant providers can help organisations to save resources
  • grant-seekers rank operational costs as more critically needed than increased or quick-response funding.
  • comments on funding operational costs included those identifying this as an immediate need, while others focused on the benefits of funding capacity-building in general.

The key themes identified in the comments included the need for funders to:

  • cover staff salaries
  • help organisations survive COVID-19
  • deliver services to support communities through COVID-19
  • be more flexible.

Grant-seekers need help with staff going digital during the COVID-19 crisis

In the report, The Grants Hub’s Founder and CEO Jessie Ballantyne highlighted adjusting to working online as an area where many grant seekers need urgent assistance. A related challenge delivering programs through digital channels.

“At a time when cash funding may be reduced for some funders, this could be an opportunity to provide important pro-bono support, or tap into staff volunteering programs,” Ballantyne said.

“Funding, however, is also clearly needed to help organisations make digital innovations. For many grant seekers, this investment would help now and into the future by enabling innovation and improving efficiencies. [It’s] a great example of how funders can deliver impact by extending their support outside of project-based grants and into capacity building.”

In terms of what grant seekers are looking for with voluntary or in-kind support:

  • a total of 71% said support with running virtual events (training, help, advice, discounted technology) was critically or somewhat needed
  • 30% of respondents identified laptops and IT equipment to help their teams work at home as a critical need
  • respondents critically need help digitising services they give to beneficiaries.

The full report, including comments from grant seeking organisations, can be downloaded from The Grant Hub’s website.

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