An Open Letter to Funders Regarding Coronavirus Response

March 13, 2020

Dear Funding Partners,

You are needed more than ever during this time of coronavirus.  Your rapid response can save countless lives.  Please consult with nonprofit leaders, though, to ensure that your funding goes to the highest and best use.  Here’s what nonprofit leaders want you to know:

  1. Many of us are maxed out. We’ve been operating at our maximum capacity for years already.  In some cases, our funding levels haven’t yet recovered from cuts in 2008.  We already have eight other special projects piled on top of our regular work, like parent organizing and census outreach.  Coronavirus response is yet another unfunded mandate at this point, but we are rising to the occasion.
  2. We need more funding and we need it immediately. In spite of being stretched, we are actively responding to this crisis, crafting new policies and action plans, deep cleaning our facilities, educating the people we serve, fighting bigotry, etc.  Should we stop doing those things to research your guidelines, create a program plan and budget, and write a grant proposal?  Will that help “flatten the curve”?  Don’t you have trusted partners you can provide additional unrestricted funding to right now?
  3. We especially need your funding because some of us just had to cancel our biggest fundraising event of the year. We lost our deposit on the hotel ballroom and catering, and we aren’t sure how we will make budget.  You are expressing concern about economic losses for hourly and gig workers.  You should also worry about the viability of many nonprofits—this could put some of us out of business.  Please advocate for nonprofits to be included in recovery planning and relief.
  4. Be flexible about how current funding is spent. This pandemic is a game-changer, and our work in the community will have to change as well.  If we have funding to provide school-based interventions, but the schools are closed, will we be penalized if we redeploy our staff to serve families in new, different ways that haven’t yet been approved in your annual grant cycle?  If we have funding to do in-person community education events, but we have to shift to virtual events, do we have to renegotiate our contract?  Issue a statement to grantees that you will support nonprofits leading in adaptive ways and you will support their efforts to be responsive to changing community needs, even if it doesn’t match to original proposal.
  5. Distribute more money. In a time of crisis, it makes sense to invest more immediately.  If we can slow the spread of this disease, it will save countless dollars later in healthcare costs and economic losses.  We as nonprofits are being asked to do more, so give us more resources to get the job done.  This is the time for foundations to exceed the 5% minimum required payout.  Yes, we know the stock market is down and you are worried about your corpus.  But that doesn’t change the fact that now is the time for leadership, including leadership giving.
  6. Support intermediary organizations. Our coalitions, associations and capacity building partners are offering real-time guidance and support.  They are convening us so that we can coordinate our efforts and share effective strategies.  Help them help us.

We will get through this crisis by working together.  Nonprofit leaders are pretty busy at the moment, but we still want to share our ideas with you as you decide on your response.  We hope to hear from you.


Laura Pierce




Laura Pierce

Washington Nonprofits is the state association for all nonprofits. We make sure nonprofits have what they need to succeed through learning, advocacy, and collaboration. More information on our response to the coronavirus pandemic is available here.

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