Every foundation is different, and every grantee is different. Foundations are dealing with both a stock market decline and a pandemic at the same time.  However, most foundations realize that their work is far less stressful and dangerous than that of frontline workers. Many foundations are looking at doing very significant grantmaking because of current urgent needs.  While some foundations have historically given out only the minimum required, many others have always made greater disbursements than the legal requirement.

In terms of how much your organization can do to deal with COVID-19, you may wish to review whether the funds/assets you have are restricted or not.  If restricted, how are they restricted?  And can those restrictions be changed if required? Many areas are in need as a result of the pandemic, so almost any foundation can find some way to be supportive if they wish to. If a foundation cannot think of how to modify their systems to be supportive, they should reach out to experienced charity legal counsel to assist them.

If there are no binding restrictions on some or all your assets, then consider ramping up giving quickly, efficiently, without too much bureaucracy, but always in compliance with legal requirements. We are currently working with one large foundation that is looking to give away 50% of its very substantial assets to deal with COVID-19.

There can be reputational issues if your organization is not pulling its weight in dealing with the crisis.  In the future, people will look carefully at what foundations did and did not do during this time, and this might be a defining moment for many charitable foundations. Hopefully it will be a shining example of what great things foundations can do.