by Mihika Srivastava and Kyli Kleven
In the last few months, we have all watched our world change dramatically around us. For Astraea’s 190+ grantee partners, the pandemic has deepened the challenges that they face, including surveillance, criminalization and violence, limited access to healthcare, economic hardship, crackdowns on civic space, and much more. We have taken this time to reach out to our grantees all over the world, and really tune into their needs at this time. We have been learning from the ways many grantees have rapidly adapted their strategies to meet the moment, and begun to shift our own so that they continue to be determined by grantees’ priorities.
As always, our grantees and LBTQI grassroots movements at large have put their communities first by organizing in powerful and critical ways. They stand on the frontlines of the pandemic caring for their communities. For them, collective care looks like providing basic necessities, offering healing support, facilitating connections to health care, participating in mutual aid, and ensuring holistic and digital security.
As a queer feminist fund that prioritizes organizations working at the intersections of multiple identities and oppressions, Astraea provides long-term, flexible, accessible support to some of the most under-resourced communities around the world. In 2019, 75% of our funding to grantees was in the form of general operating support grants. While this moment is an unprecedented one, it calls on us as a feminist funder to commit even more deeply to these core values and practices.
“Movement building must go on and we as funders have to do our part to keep grantees resourced and financially secure. We know that both funding and other kinds of non-financial support are critical, and so it is essential that we are sending our grantees on-time payments, extending proposal and submission deadlines where needed, changing convening dates and/or moving to virtual convenings, or other new solutions that need to become practice in the weeks and months ahead,” says Astraea Interim Program Director Kerry Ashforth,
As a first step, our Program Team worked to amend our Spring 2020 grantmaking cycle to relieve grantees of as many administrative burdens as possible, and prioritize their ability to access funding quickly and seamlessly. Here are some of the steps we have taken:
- In March 2020, we communicated with renewal groups and waived proposal requirements for any who had not already submitted them.
- We have made additional funding available to existing grantees where necessary, and we are raising new funding to be able to do so for even more grantees going forward.
- We are working hard to move our current grants out more quickly, so partners are better equipped to weather the storm.
- Program Officers have been checking in with grantees to support with any capacity building and other accompaniment needs they may have, beyond funding.
- Realizing that many partners would struggle with internet access and costs, we sent offline versions of our application to as many grantees as possible. In some cases, program staff walked applicants through proposals over the phone and took notes for them.
We are remaining flexible and nimble in the coming weeks and months around our reporting and decision-making processes, particularly as we begin to plan for future grantmaking cycles.
Speaking to why it felt so critical to make these changes, our Senior Grants Manager Miabi Chatterji said, “Astraea already provides general operating support to most of our grantee partners because we believe that is the best way to support movement building. We were also already in the midst of accepting applications for our current grant cycle when the pandemic expanded globally. Our staff became incredibly aware of the need to do everything we could do to make things easier for grantee partners and try to get them their funds faster.
Above all, we are trying to use this time to question our assumptions and practices. What information do we have to collect from grantee partners, and why? What modes of communication are most accessible and genuine to grantees? What can we streamline? Can we make these practices permanent? In what ways can we create an even better future state of normal?”
Throughout the coming months, we will be working to find creative, nimble solutions to these and many other questions that arise, with the ultimate goal of continuing to build power for our movements, now and over the long haul.