Basic Needs & Sustainability Grants Are Needed in New Orleans: How Will Funders Respond?

The Greater New Orleans Foundation (GNOF), a community funder that serves 13 counties at the “toe end” of Louisiana’s boot shape, recently released a report that sheds some light on the local grant needs here. Needs Scan 2.0 aimed to identify the organizational and effectiveness needs of nonprofits in the region, and the big results here were all about basic needs.

The 10-page report established that 82 percent of nonprofits that participated in the survey have seen an increase in demand for the services and programs they provide. It doesn't take an expert analyst to know that's a huge number that's a little unsettling. Basic needs services, like housing and food, continue to top those lists. Over 300 nonprofits participated in the survey and at least 60 groups were interviewed.

"More and more people are turning to nonprofit organizations for an array of basic services, draining [the organizations'] capital and risking their viability," said Joann Ricci, vice president for Organizational Effectiveness at the foundation. "There is simply not enough support from government or private sources to meet the growing demand."

Another reason for this increase in demand is that nonprofits have become more visible in the region, which means that more people are aware of the services they provide and are taking advantage of them. In addition to keeping up with basic needs demands, nonprofits in the New Orleans area are really concerned about sustainability. This makes sense because the increase in demand is putting a serious strain on these groups' abilityto exist.

In the Southeast and other places too across America, nonprofit sustainability grantmaking has been gaining traction with funders. Paying for administrative and organizational costs may not be as sexy as getting press for a high-profile community project or securing naming rights for a multi-million-dollar donation, but none of that will even exist anymore if nonprofit staffs can’t do their jobs effectively. Over half of nonprofit leaders surveyed here said that sustainability was their greatest financial challenge.

After sustainability concerns, nonprofit leaders here are also expressing needs for unrestricted funds and general operating costs, which is also something for local funders to take note of. Multi-year grants would certainly come in handy down here too to bring some stability and security to the local nonprofit sector. These types of grants are often viewed as more risky for funders, but with dramatically increasing needs like this, now is the time to embrace risk.

What the results of this report tell us is two-fold. Funders in Southeastern Louisiana could stand to take a second look at their grantmaking strategies to ensure that enough funds are being allocated to basic needs programs. This is especially relevant for family foundations, corporate funders, and individual donors who are based in the New Orleans area and committed to place-based funding close to home. And sustainability grants typically take a while to make an impact, so those are going to be in high demand for many more years to come.

In general, nonprofits here need fundraising assistance, more strategic collaborations, and better board governance. So meanwhile, GNOF is planning to use these report findings to adjust its own grantmaking offerings and the programs it offers. It’s doing this through webinars and leadership development clinics to teach nonprofits about best practices in financial management, collaborative partnerships, and capacity building strategies. Louisiana nonprofits can learn more about over a dozen grantmaking programs that this funder offers and current deadlines on the Receive page of its website.

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