I was having a conversation with my colleague a few weeks ago about an organization in our community that desperately needed new laptops to continue to do their work both virtually and while working from their offices. Their current computers were antiquated, slow, and getting in the way of their accomplishing the tasks at hand. As we were having this discussion, we reflected on the fact that this type of general operating support would not be of interest to many donors. It certainly wasn’t “sexy” to fund computers, and the majority of supporters are attracted to feel good, tangible program requests rather than funding such a simple but critically needed piece of equipment. Of course, as human beings, this makes perfect sense as to why we are drawn towards actual projects that help others who are less fortunate.
I am proud that here at the Brandywine Health Foundation, we have always made general operating support a top priority and have been intentional in reflecting this in our grantmaking, now more than ever. I believe that this is because our leadership has always understood the value of this type of support both from having had years of experience in the non-profit sector and from working so closely with dozens of non-profit organizations. We continue to hear that these general operating grants can be the lifeline helping them to continue to keep their lights on, their teams employed, and their doors open.
Certainly, there is still a need for program support. But if we as funders want to help our partners accomplish their goals, the tide has to shift from short-term to long-term support and from restricted to unrestricted support. In this year alone, we provided over $320,000 in general operating grants to 36 non-profit organizations serving the greater Coatesville community. We see this as a priority that is embedded in all of our guiding principles, and most especially around stewardship. “We demonstrate accountability, transparency, and integrity as good stewards of the community’s trust and its resources.” What better way to accomplish this than by ensuring these resources and opportunities are accessible through general operating support?
It is clear in the throes of this pandemic that more funders are recognizing the importance of general operating support, and we hope that more will continue to follow suit — that this will not be a temporary priority but will be a permanent mindset as we head into 2021 and beyond.
We have a long road ahead of us as we strive for a more just society where communities have the resources they need not only to survive but to thrive. Consider this as you continue to make your charitable gifts throughout the year; a grant that allows nonprofits to use the resources to bolster their operations, or enhance their programs or services, gives our nonprofit partners the freedom to make decisions on how best to continue to meet their mission and serve the community. No strings attached!
As Chief Impact Officer with the Brandywine Health Foundation (BHF), Dana Heiman is in charge of donor engagement and outreach. The Brandywine Health Foundation is a responsive philanthropic organization that focuses on changing the persistent inequities in health care, housing, education, and economic opportunities in the Greater Coatesville, Pennsylvania area.