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COVID-19: How to advance your research mission in uncertain times


As private foundations face challenging times in the coming months, your organization may be having internal discussions on how ongoing financial uncertainty will impact daily operations and the research mission. Challenges may be significant as many foundations are just getting back to levels they were funding in 2008 and some are still behind. Foundations’ largest expense is usually grants, which are usually committed for two, three and sometimes up to five years. This makes grant funding the first place to look for savings.



Foundations that weathered the global financial crisis in 2007-2008 can draw on their experiences from that time. Here are some ideas that might be on the table at many foundations today with potential impact for research, researchers and operations:

  1. Decreasing current year grants commitments by a certain percentage, i.e., 10-20%. This may be the best option to maintain foundations' operations with some minimal impact to research. Decreases might vary according to type of grant, i.e., center or program grants, individual research grants, innovative grants, fellowships, conference and travel grants, publication grants

  2. Disallow carry-overs for current year. This saves money and has minimal impacts on current research.

  3. Fellowships: Depending on each foundation, this is not a large part of foundations' portfolio and it is best to leave this untouched.

  4. New grants for 2020-2021: There is not much of a choice here. Pay-line for new grants will be lower. New peer-reviewed and funded grants might need to follow #1.

  5. Travel and Conference grants: Since travel and conferences are severely restricted in the current environment, this can be a savings.

  6. Virtual Peer-review: If you are not already doing so, all grant peer review should be conducted online. Make sure that all reviewers have online access to grant applications and scoring sheets while conducting the review.

  7. Partnerships: it might be a good time to explore partnerships with other foundations and/or industry to launch Request for Proposals and fund projects together.

Please provide feedback and ideas of what are you doing at your foundation and I'll update this blog as more ideas come in. Reach out if you need support to go through these decisions, you can reach us at ask@onixhub.com.



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