A year ago, the worst financial crisis in half a century compelled The George Gund Foundation, like others, to make some tough decisions in order to deal with a sharp decline in the value of our invested assets. We cut our operating budget and trimmed our grantmaking while focusing more resources on effective collaborations and on public policy advocacy. Fortunately, as the year progressed our assets began to rebound. While the portfolio-and hence our grantmaking — has not returned to its pre-recession level, the trend is encouraging. We face 2010 with greater optimism and also with a continued commitment to fiscal prudence, effective collaborations and policy work.
The reaction to our first online annual report was positive, and we saved thousands of dollars by forgoing the traditional printed version. So, we will once again report to our grantees and others in an online publication that will continue to feature a photographic essay, this year focused on Cleveland’s lakefront.
Another operational change affects our proposal deadlines and grant decision schedule. Beginning this year, we will have three rounds of grant awards instead of four. This is not a financial decision; we will award the same amount of dollars that we would have under our four-round schedule. Rather, as many of you know, eight of our 10 trustees live far from our Cleveland office and in order to maximize the effectiveness of their engagement and to accommodate the many demands on their schedules, our Board of Trustees will meet three times per year. This obviously affects the deadlines for submitting grant requests. Below is the meeting schedule and proposal deadline schedule for 2010:
Proposal deadline: November 15, 2009
Trustees Meeting: February 25
Proposal deadline: March 15
Trustees Meeting: July 1
Proposal deadline: July 15
Trustees Meeting: November 4
In future years, the proposal deadlines will remain the same and Trustee meeting dates will be approximately the same.
We recognize that this will create some concern for grantees who have been accustomed to working with us on a different calendar, and we encourage you to contact any of the Foundation’s program staff with your questions and to bring to our attention any particular issues this switch raises. We will work with you to ease the transition to the new schedule.
Finally, although the financial crisis has eased, economic distress remains all too prevalent. Consequently, we will continue to emphasize collaborations — among grantmakers and grantees — in order to stretch scarce dollars and to make more effective decisions. Sharing power, decision-making and day-to-day work is difficult — especially for foundations that are accustomed to exercising unilateral authority. But we as grantmakers cannot honestly demand collaboration among nonprofit organizations without forcing ourselves to adhere to the same discipline that comes from working in a partnership. So, we will seek such collaborations for ourselves and among those who do the work that we care about. Naturally, this prompts us to maintain an emphasis on public policy advocacy. Not only is this work essential to attacking root causes of many fundamental problems, it also generates tremendous leverage for our grant dollars. And building effective public policies always involves the hard work of finding common ground among diverse viewpoints, which is the very essence of collaboration.
David T. Abbott