Operating support critical

By Todd Cohen

Grants to support nonprofit operations can seem like a mirage.

Charities prefer operating support but only when the grants are bigger and for longer periods than those that funders typically provide, says a report by The Center for Effective Philanthropy.

Yet while believing that operating grants will help charities, the report says, foundation CEOs place a higher priority on the ability to measure outcomes or meet board pressure to provide program support.

The gap between the way charities and foundations see the value of operating grants is unfortunate but understandable.

Nonprofits find it tough to criticize their funders, and foundation staffs find it tough to buck the preference of their boards to fund their pet projects.

Grantseekers and grantmakers must do a better job communicating with one another and making sure not only that operating support is provided, but that it is delivered in the most effective way.

To get candid input from nonprofits, funders must state unambiguously their commitment to operating support, and their need both to understand nonprofits’ operating challenges and to measure the impact of operating support.

And nonprofits must be honest about their needs, and committed to accounting for their operations.

Operating support can work.

Todd Cohen is the Editor and Publisher of the Philanthropy Journal.

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