Funder Member 2021 Survey Results


In October 2021, Philanthropy Massachusetts conducted a Funder Member Survey. As the philanthropic community continues to adapt and work to address the impacts of COVID-19 and ongoing racial disparities and injustices, we sought to learn more about how funders have responded and evolved. In the survey we asked funders to:

  1. reflect on current behavior and practices,
  2. consider their equity and inclusion work and
  3. look ahead to 2022, particularly their interests and needs. 


Pandemic and Funder Behavior

The top two types of support beyond grants were funders helping NPOs connect with other funders (70%) and learning opportunities such as convenings, skill-building, etc.


When asked, “how, if at all, has your relationship with your grantees changed over the past two years as a result of the health, economic and racial crises faced by our communities?”, open-ended responses included:

* “more connected

* “increased two-way communication

* “deeper relationships

This aligns with last year’s survey in that 81% of funders predicted relationships with nonprofits would remain in place beyond 2020.

20% indicated that they were planning to increase their 2022 payout rate beyond the legal minimum 5% distribution (whereas 56% reported in 2020 they were planning to increase payout beyond 5% in 2021)

Race, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (REDI)

Respondents were asked how much their charitable giving organization is centering REDI work:

* 42% reported that the work was front and center

* 46% reported that it was a growing priority

* Only 2% of respondents said that it wasn’t on the table

Challenges to “advancing your REDI work” included:

* Keeping the work and need front and center

* Board buy-in – resistance to change

* Time and resources

* Challenges connecting with the community

* Really incorporating REDI into all of their work (building it into processes/practices that are more than performative)

Looking Ahead

When asked what types of convenings are the most important, the following three ranked the highest:

* Current trends in philanthropy (for ex. participatory grantmaking)

* Funder Network meetings and programs

* Dialogues on public-policy issues (for ex. tax reform)

In response to the question of anticipating where funders will make changes in their work in 2022, the top areas included:

* Adding or enhancing a focus on racial equity (hiring, vendor selection, and grantmaking)

* Conversations with Board and/or Staff about racial equity, including Board and/or Staff composition

* We see this reflected across the nearly dozen Funder Networks Philanthropy MA supports.

When asked about interests moving forward, top responses included:

* Operationalizing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

* Relationship building and networking with peers

* Trust-based philanthropy

* Evaluation, learning and impact

The COVID-19 pandemic has opened many of our eyes (and reminded some) to glaring disparities within our society. Many would argue that a return to ‘normal’ is insufficient. We agree. Over the past two years, nonprofits, and the individuals and families whose lives they impact, have been devastatingly impacted by these crises and have had to adapt quickly. Now that we as a funder community continue to see the impact of these crises, and have responded quickly, it’s impossible to no longer see it.

We have experienced how our institutions (and their respective thinking and practices) can adapt in dire circumstances. Funders can continue to:

  • Support nonprofits beyond a grant check, by connecting them to additional resources (namely people and money) and offer learning opportunities for their Staff
  • Strengthen the relationships and connections to their grantees and nonprofit partners in their transparency and frequency of communications
  • Increase payout rates and provide more unrestricted support
  • Consider what they are asking of grant applicants/recipients, both in their application and reporting processes and reduce barriers to both
  • Add/enhance a focus on racial equity in their grantmaking
  • Engage in conversations and actions pertaining to racial equity, including the composition of their Boards/Staff

At Philanthropy Massachusetts, we will continue to elevate the funder behavior and practices that help increase the overall effectiveness and positive impact of the sector.

For survey details of methodology and demographics, click here.

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