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Despite the urgency of climate change and the narrowing window for action, philanthropic funding to address climate change remains very limited. Total philanthropic giving by foundations and individuals focused on climate change mitigation represents less than two percent of total global philanthropic giving, according to the ClimateWorks Foundation. While there is some evidence of increased momentum in recent years, more action will be needed to match the scale of the climate crisis.
The disproportionate public health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on certain communities, along with nationwide protests against police violence and racial injustice, have intensified the calls for foundations to focus on equity and reckon with anti-Black racism in a deeper way than they had before. To what extent have staffed foundations changed their practices in 2020 in response to this push for substantial shifts in how philanthropy approaches its work?CEP surveyed and interviewed foundation leaders to find out. Foundations Respond to Crisis: Toward Equity? reveals that almost all foundations participating in CEP's study report placing new, or more, focus on supporting Black, Latino, and lower-income communities; and most foundation leaders say they are reckoning with racism and paying greater attention to racial equity in their work. However, there remains still significant room for further progress, and it remains to be seen how deep and sustained this new focus will be.
Nonprofits and funders alike have long called on foundations to be more flexible and responsive, to provide more unrestricted funding, to reduce what they ask of grantees, and to build more trusting relationships. In 2020, these calls for change only intensified in a time of immense challenge for nonprofits and the people and communities they serve.Have foundations responded to these calls with newfound urgency? And if so, is that response merely a momentary adjustment? Or will the crises of 2020 spur substantive, long-term change in how funders approach their work?CEP surveyed and interviewed foundation leaders to find out. Foundations Respond to Crisis: Toward Greater Flexibility and Responsiveness? reveals that foundations say they are loosening grant restrictions, providing more unrestricted funding, and reducing what they ask of grantees. Many plan to continue these practices in the future, though to a lesser degree than during their pandemic response.Findings in this report are based on survey data gathered from 236 foundations — 170 of which signed the pledge hosted by the Council on Foundations to act urgently in response to COVID-19, and 66 of which had not — as well as in-depth interviews with leaders of 41 foundations that signed the pledge. All data was collected between June and August 2020.This study is the final in a series of three reports from CEP examining the extent to which staffed foundations have changed their practices in response to calls for change to meet the unprecedented challenges of 2020.
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