November 23, 2020

Grantmaking in 2021: What to Expect

Change is constant, and after 2020, we know it is inevitable. How has this year changed grantmaking, and how should funders continue to adjust for what's ahead?

If there’s any lesson to be learned from the chaotic year that we just experienced, it’s to expect the unexpected. While 2021 promises to be a bit more stable than the year we just experienced, many of the changes that 2020 brought might still be with us — or even become permanent. Here are five ways that nonprofits can prepare for the upcoming year, no matter what it brings. 

Stay Nimble

Our economy’s ups and downs are not expected to level-off any time soon. Therefore, your organization may need to consider new strategies to obtain (and retain) funding. The usual avenues, as well as the amounts of funding available, may have changed. 

Another challenge that has been the sheer volume of need that the pandemic has created. How can you best respond when it feels like everyone needs help? Investing in modern nonprofit technology is one way that organizations can remain responsive and easily pivot when they need to. These tools are similar to oxygen masks on an airplane: You have to first put on your own mask in order to help other people put on their own.

Continue to Rely on Remote

One thing we do know is that remote work isn’t going anywhere. Expect stakeholders and applicants to remain at home or with restricted mobility well into 2021. Even after the coronavirus crisis begins to be resolved, lingering issues related to the pandemic are expected to affect our ability to travel internationally for years to come. Keeping your grant management software accessible online, with a centralized platform that people can access from wherever they are, will help you stay in the game, from home or away. 

Lower Your Barriers

In an era of competing complications, keeping your applications, processes, and technology simple will be well appreciated by staff, shareholders, and applicants, alike. Consider how much time people may be spending on your application, and if there are any ways that you grant application questions could be more approchable. Remember: Making things easy for everyone else ultimately makes things easier for you. 

Focus on Equity

In a confusing and often overwhelming year, one thing has become very clear: People need help. Unfortunately, help isn’t necessarily on the way for everyone. Existing inequalities have become even more stark, from systemic racism to access to health care. And as more people need assistance, our ideas of who needs help will need to shift. A good place to start is within your organization, recognizing how former funding decisions may not have been as equitable as possible, and looking for ways to make your programs more accessable and to facilitate an unbiased review process.

Take a Collaborative Approach

Team work makes the dream work, and grantmakers are realizing that collective good is more easily achieved with collective effort. Collaboration tools will continue to prove not only helpful, but provide teams with new ways to work together and smarter. Software that connects reviewers, administrators, and funders will allow for fresh perspectives to be shared, loads to be lessened, and more equitable decisions to be promoted.

Ensure Safety and Security

As more of us move processes and data online, it also follows that more of us are considering the security implications of virtual data management. And with recent data breeches making the news, it's justified. Nonprofits of all shapes and sizes need to make security a major initiative for 2021. This means performing audits off all systems, ensuring your cloud-based programs meet best in class security standards, and training staff to recognize scam and phishing attacks.

Use The Right Tools

Recovery may not come as quickly as we need. Nonprofit organizations, scholarships, grants, and other ways of giving have become more crucial than ever. With the right technology to optimize your giving, you’ll be able to do your part to help rebuild our communities faster and more efficiently. It’s important work — and you deserve the best tools to make it happen. Foundations and funders need to shrug off the outdated notion that nonprofit technology investments in resources are not financially prudent, and instead see nonprofit tech as the impetus for stronger giving and magnified impact.


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