New Attitudes, Old Practices: The Provision of Multi-Year General Operating Support

Why, given their benefits, do so few foundations provide Multi-Year General Operating Support (GOS) grants? This study aims to answer that as well as the following related questions:

  • ƒ What benefits do multiyear GOS grants have for nonprofit organizations?
  • ƒ How many foundations are providing multiyear GOS, and to how many of the nonprofits they support?
  • ƒ How do foundations make decisions about whether to provide multiyear general operating support?
  • ƒ What are the attitudes of foundation boards, CEOs, and program officers toward the provision of multiyear GOS?
  • ƒ What barriers are preventing foundations from providing more multiyear GOS?
  • ƒ How do foundations that give more multiyear GOS than is typical think about impact?

All data collection for this study occurred in late 2019 and early 2020, before COVID-19 became a global
pandemic. Since that crisis was recognized globally in March, a number of foundations have pledged to
follow certain practices, including seeking to provide as much GOS as possible. CEP is undertaking a separate
study, also supported by the Ford Foundation, to track whether and how practices have changed since the
beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The results in this report provide a crucial baseline for attitudes and
practices before the crisis.

“The findings reveal a sobering disconnect between attitudes of foundation leaders and the experience of
nonprofits
. Moreover, we found a similar disconnect between the attitudes of foundation CEOs themselves
and their foundations’ practices
. While we sought to understand what is getting in the way of the provision
of multiyear GOS, we were unable to identify a clear theme or major barrier. We are left to conclude that
a majority of foundation leaders simply have not felt it a fit with their approach or important enough to
prioritize shifting their funding practices.”