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General Support Funding with A. Nicole Campbell

This week on the Nonprofit Build Up, we are discussing general support funding. This episode was recorded as the very first episode from our Fast Build Friday series, a web-series where we quickly build what you know about infrastructure design in the nonprofit sector.  

You may hear us talk a lot about general support funding or flexible funding on the Nonprofit Build Up podcast. Many leaders in the nonprofit sector, some of whom we have had as guests, are speaking out about how crucial general support funding is for creating sustainable and effective organizations. Nic made our first Fast Build Friday video about this topic as a 2020 trend for the nonprofit sector. But we did not want general support funding to simply be a trend, and this episode explains why. 

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Read the podcast transcription below:

-Upbeat Intro Music-

Nic Campbell: 

You’re listening to the Nonprofit Build Up Podcast and I’m your host, Nic Campbell. I want to support movements that can interrupt cycles of injustice and inequity, and shift power towards vulnerable and marginalized communities. I’ve spent years working in and with nonprofits and philanthropies, and I know how important infrastructure is to outcomes. On this show, we’ll talk about how to build capacity to transform the way you and your organization work.

Katy Thompson:

Hi, everyone. It’s Katy T, BU’s PC. This week on the Nonprofit Build Up, we are discussing general support funding. This episode was recorded as the very first episode from our Fast Build Friday series, a web-series where we quickly build what you know about infrastructure design in the nonprofit sector.  

You may hear us talk a lot about general support funding or flexible funding on the Nonprofit Build Up podcast. Many leaders in the nonprofit sector, some of whom we have had as guests, are speaking out about how crucial general support funding is for creating sustainable and effective organizations. Nic made our first Fast Build Friday video about this topic as a 2020 trend for the nonprofit sector. But we did not want general support funding to simply be a trend, and this episode explains why. 

And with that, here is Fast Build Friday- Episode 1.  

Nicole Campbell:

Hi, everyone. It’s Nic with Build Up Advisory Group and welcome to Fast Build Fridays, a web series where we will build what you know about infrastructure design in the nonprofit sector. Now, I have some notes so you might see me looking down during this video, but it’s just to make sure that I stay on target and I don’t ramble on because this topic is near and dear to my heart. Today’s Fast Build topic is about the infrastructure trends that we’re seeing for the sector in 2020 and I wrote an article about these trends but I wanted to pull out one trend in particular and that’s the trend around general support funding. By now, I’m sure you’ve seen a lot of the articles and heard a lot of buzz around grants being moved from project support to general support. And the thinking here is that the general support funding, unlike project support funding, which is restricted usually to a project or to a program, this general support funding instead will allow organizations and leaders to determine how to spend that funding to make sure that the organization, their work, and the communities that they’re serving are sustainable.

Nicole Campbell:

Now in my opinion, this should have always been the case. This crisis, this COVID-19 pandemic, this crisis, did not create the need for flexible funding. The need was always there. The crisis just magnified that need. Now, as most of you know, I am a big proponent of general support funding, flexible funding, and I write about these topics a lot and I think that we are in a moment now where we have to ask ourselves, why wasn’t this grant a general support grant to begin with? And we should also be asking why can’t we continue to provide general support funding? Part of the reason I wanted to pull out this trend and talk about it was I wanted to share some of the interesting things that I’ve been noticing about this trend. The first is that the conversations that have been happening about general support I am finding are much more sophisticated than the conversations that have been happening in the past.

Nicole Campbell:

For example, there’s a real conversation around what are the true costs of running an organization and how can funding support those costs. The second thing that I wanted to flag is that these conversations are being mutually pushed or pursued by both grantees and funders, which is extremely important because I do think that this conversation should not be unilateral. It should be a dialogue, and so it’s really important that grantees and funders are both pushing to have this conversation. The third thing that I’m noticing are the public commitments from funders, and I really like to see these commitments. Why? Because they talk about general support and I think they’re just reinforcing the point that flexible funding is the way to make sure that an organization is sustainable. But with this observation, it’s also raising some questions for me about this trend, particularly around traction. Specifically, when are we going to move these conversations to action so that we could have a sector-wide shift to general support funding? And what does a successful shift look like for funders?

Nicole Campbell:

How do they transition to that? How do grantees transition to that? I know that these are big questions to wrestle with, but I do think we need to wrestle with them in order to make sure that this trend keeps tracking in the right direction. And that’s our Fast Build. If you have any comments or you want to share any of the infrastructure trends that you’re noticing in the sector, please just comment below. I’d love to hear from you.

Katy Thompson:

And that concludes this week’s episode. Nic posed many big questions for us to ponder in this episode. We are curious to know how you are thinking about the transition to more general support funding? What trends are you seeing in 2021? Send us your answers and infrastructure comments and questions to hello@buildupadvisory.com 

-Upbeat Outro Music-

Nic Campbell:

Thank you for listening to this episode of Nonprofit Build Up. To access the show notes, additional resources, and information on how you can work with us, please visit our website at buildupadvisory.com. We invite you to listen again next week as we share another episode about scaling impact by building infrastructure and capacity in the nonprofit sector. Keep building bravely.