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In November 2008, San Diego Grantmakers conducted a survey of members to determine how local funders were responding to the economic crisis and what suggestions they wanted to share with their peers. 

  • 90 percent of respondents have seen their assets decrease (60 percent of these witnessed an 11-30 percent decrease).
  • 32 percent of respondents anticipated that their 2009 grantmaking budget would be about the same as in 2008; while 38 percent projected a decrease.
  • 27 percent reported that they will narrow their focus to current grantees, 20 percent will make fewer, smaller grants, and 47 percent had not yet determined how their grantmaking might change. Note: that last figure will change in the next few months as funders find answers to the struggle of how to do more with less.
  • 82 percent of respondents anticipated facilitating collaborations and partnerships among nonprofits in the coming year.

Here are some of the ideas from our survey about how philanthropists of all shapes and sizes can help out:

  • Funders with similar areas of giving should collaborate on how to continue to support local groups with the greatest impact. We must identify and focus on the fundamental needs of the SD nonprofit sector — what can we simply not allow to fail?
  • There should be a greater focus on general operating support funding – to sustain nonprofits doing excellent work, with proven outcomes— and less on funding specific programs or events. Overhead is not a dirty word, e.g. if you don’t have the money to hire the people to do the work, then you can’t do the work.
  • We can support a nonprofit’s focus on governance and other areas of organizational development. Donors may give more when they feel confident that their more limited charitable funds are being used properly and effectively.

Finally, one grantmaker said: “I think that this is a time for funders to show that our principle concern is for the support of our missions, not simply the preservation of our assets. We must take advantage of this opportunity by not reducing grantmaking, even with the decline in our assets.”

A call to action to be sure.

— NANCY JAMISON

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