Grantmakers shift focus, funding and processes in their COVID-19 response

Posted on 16 Jul 2020

Funders are being forced to make big changes to maintain their effectiveness in the wake of the global pandemic, a new study of Australian and New Zealand grantmakers shows.

The SmartyGrants COVID-19 Grantmaking Survey 2020 found:

  • 94% of grantmakers surveyed had provided extra support to existing grantees
  • 81% had supported new applicants with their applications
  • 75% had varied grants contracts
  • 55% had added a new pandemic-focused grants program
  • 32% had boosted funding levels

Not surprisingly, funders have shifted focus, placing a greater emphasis on community and economic development and reducing help for sports, recreation, arts, culture and environmental causes.

Among the survey’s 25 probing questions was this one:

What is the one thing that has emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic that you hope we will take into the post-COVID era?

Many funders said they had been challenged by the short timeframes for deploying rapid response grants, but now wanted to retain the streamlined practices they had adopted to make rapid grantmaking possible.

Shannon Fielder from Victoria’s Golden Plains Shire Council, an experienced community partnerships officer based in the picturesque region sandwiched between Geelong and Ballarat, summed up how many people are feeling, while pointing to ways to become a more effective grantmaker in this challenging environment.

“By slowing down you can achieve more,” she said. “Take a breath, be in your garden, play Lego with your kids and then come to work and find everything just flows instead of building up and tensing in your shoulders. It's much easier to work with someone, client or colleague, after you see their humanity. Their cat/kid/dog/spouse walking through the back of the Zoom meeting has made me realise everyone is actually in same damn boat as me!”

Shannon was judged to have lodged the best response to that forward-looking question, and as a result wins the survey prize: a Funding Centre subscription worth $400, giving access for up to 10 users to Australia’s best grants database.

Our Community executive director Kathy Richardson said the survey was designed to dig more deeply into the trends the organisation was seeing play out through SmartyGrants, Our Community’s cloud-based grants administration system. SmartyGrants is used by around 400 government and philanthropic grantmakers across Australia and New Zealand to manage billions of dollars in grants.

“We will use the insights gained through the survey to guide our ongoing IT development, helping us build the most relevant tools for grantmakers. We’ll also use this knowledge to inform further development of our extensive online library of grantmaking advice materials.”