Foundation Relations
Foundation Relations

Foundation Relations as COVID-19 Response Continues

Last week, we learned that some of the largest foundations in the US have made an historic gesture to respond to the urgent and unprecedented needs related to COVID-19. By taking on more than $1.2 billion in debt, in the form of 30-50 year bonds, they will be able to immediately increase their grantmaking abilities without significantly depleting their assets/endowment. You can read more about the bold move in this article published by the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

These are unprecedented times when philanthropy is being called to respond like never before to the needs of those who have been most significantly impacted by COVID-19. Now is the time to strengthen your stewardship of your major donors who may be looking for a way to make their mark.

Here are a few of our tips to get the most out of your stewardship efforts:

Be Well-Informed

Keep in mind that this approach of taking on debt in the interest of increasing grants over a short period of time is not for everyone. Many foundations are not in a position to consider this type of strategy. However, mega foundations with more than $500,000,000 in assets may be considering a similar approach. Keep in touch with your contacts at these major funders for the latest developments and new grant opportunities that may open up, especially if yours is a model that can be mirrored in other communities.

And there are still many new funding opportunities becoming available. We previously shared with you some resources that can connect you to new opportunities for COVID-specific funding. Make sure to continue to check these sites for updated resources, including this one from Candid.

Don’t forget about Donor Advised Funds! In addition to already seeing a significant increase in DAF gifts compared to previous disasters, the current Half My DAF movement calls for these donors to make significant gifts from their funds to assist with urgent COVID-related needs. With more than $120 billion sitting in DAFs, this is an enormous pool of resources that are given (mostly) at the discretion of the donor advisor.

Be Prepared

Talk about your organization’s COVID-related needs in a clear and succinct way and get to the point quickly. Right now, funders are receiving so many inquiries and other communication from existing and new recipients, brevity will be your strong suit. Maybe even consider a special COVID-19 one pager that sums up your needs and is easy to share.

And be honest about your needs, whatever they may be. Is your organization facing closing? Tell them. Could vital community programs be cut due to lack of funds? Tell them. Will an underserved population become an unserved population if your program does not secure funding? Tell them.


As mentioned above, now is the time to really invest in stewarding your relationships with your major donors. If you are unsure of their current priorities due to COVID-19, reach out and ask them. Find out what their board is most interested in, how they are pivoting to accommodate the community’s needs and what they are doing to continue supporting current grantees. Remember that there are a lot of others doing the exact same thing as you, so set yourself apart by having your Executive Director or CEO make the call or recruit your well-connected board members to reach out to their personal contacts on foundation boards to help advocate for your organization.

If you have a relationship with the donor advisor, talk to them about making a gift from their DAF. If you do not, make sure to arm your local community foundation and other wealth management advisors with information on what your organization is doing to respond to COVID-19. They are the gatekeepers to the donor advisors. When you prepare them with this information, they can share it with their donor advisors who express an interest in your organization and/or cause.

Bravo to these pioneers like the Ford Foundation and HalfMyDAF who are showing us that, in times like this, when nothing is certain anymore, our friends have our back!

Picture of Vickie Mathews
Vickie Mathews
Vickie Mathews is the Vice President of Capital Campaign Services for Brad Cecil & Associates. She has supported nonprofit organizations for 13 years, spending most of her career focusing on capital campaign fundraising. When she is not at work, Vickie has very little spare time for “hobbies” after chasing after her two young kids. As a fifth generation Texan, Vickie’s Great Dane is aptly named Ladybird.

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