Our Blog: Foundation Reflections 



Read the thoughts and impressions on a variety of topics written by Foundation staff, as well as occasional guest bloggers about what’s happening at Greater Worcester Community Foundation.

An Ordinary Grant Program in Extraordinary Times
By Jonathan Cohen / October 27, 2020

In the Greater Worcester Community Foundation’s calendar, the arrival of fall means the commencement of the community grant program – our biggest discretionary granting cycle of the year.

This year, however, is different. Every nonprofit organization is feeling the impact of COVID-19.

With so much philanthropic support going to crisis response in recent months – including the tremendous work we did through the Worcester Together fund – nonprofits remain concerned there may not be enough funding to support their ongoing work.

When we rolled out this year’s community grant program cycle, we knew the 2020 criteria would have to reflect the pandemic’s impact on the sector. Here are some of the ways the Foundation is applying a COVID-19 lens to its grant review.

Measuring progress. For nonprofits whose client engagement has been historically tied to seeing people in person, lockdowns, gathering restrictions, and general fear of COVID-19 have dealt a major blow. Therefore, we’re expecting progress reports that won’t match projections made a year ago and anticipating service delivery for the year ahead to be difficult to project.

The pivot. Worlds were turned upside down and there will be no “returning to normal” because the old normal left far too many behind. How have nonprofits reacted and adapted? We’re looking for applicants to speak about how they responded to the crisis and how they’re implementing changes to plans, projects, and services going forward.

Challenging financials. With budgets taking hits in a variety of ways, nonprofit financials are looking different. Many organizations may have a difficult time making financial projections, especially those nonprofits reliant on earned revenue (such as ticket sales) and government funding. It will be important for organizations to articulate their response strategy.

Centering equity. In recent years, we have requested nonprofits discuss their racial equity journeys as a way to gauge progress. Current events have placed even greater emphasis on this work and GWCF reviewers will expect nonprofit applicants to demonstrate action plans for centering equity in their work. 

From the pandemic to the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, our community has been changed by the events of the last seven months. For that reason, there is nothing normal about this year’s community grant program cycle. 

We are being driven by our mission to strengthen the greater Worcester community by supporting nonprofits doing critical and impactful work. This year’s grant decisions will reflect these current realities.


Pictured: Jonathan Cohen, Vice President for Programs & Strategy

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