Like so many foundations, HSF lost a significant percentage of its endowment in 2008. Nevertheless, our Board decided to maintain our grant payout for 2009 and 2010 at the 2008 level in order to provide consistent support for our existing grassroots partners during a particularly critical period. We wanted to give our partners all the support we could to lessen the impact of the economic downturn and maximize the opportunity for progressive change. However, this meant that our grant payout percentage rose to unsustainable levels, further contributing to a decrease in our assets. Consequently, the HSF Board had to make some tough decisions about how to solidify our finances, while balancing that with supporting work in the field.
The Board realized that we had to make adjustments in our grants budgets in order to stabilize our assets over time. Consequently, the Board adopted a “rolling grant blackout” policy, where we asked each of our groups to “sit out” for a one year grant period during one of the four years between 2011 and 2015. After one year, groups will be able to reapply for funding, while the next cohort sits out. In effect, this would allow us to conserve and re-invest 25% of our grants budget each year for four years.
This plan did not affect grants for the 2010 spring or fall grant cycles but would commence with the 2011 spring cycle. We started with the organizations in our portfolio that had the largest budgets and who we hoped would feel the least impact from a temporary loss of our funding. The theory is that these groups would be most competitive for other grants during the relatively harder economic times, but as the economy rebounds in the latter years, there would be more available funds for the smaller groups to access to replace our grant.
HSF does not impose an artificial time limit on the number of years a group can receive support from us because we recognize that the quest for a more fair and just society is an enduring struggle. We want to be partners in that quest over the long haul, which requires us to act to ensure that we remain a viable granting institution. The particular impact of the rolling blackout strategy is that our partners will have to sit out a year from our funding.
We feel that this was the most equitable way to ensure that the Hill-Snowdon Foundation continues to exist to support future generations of community organizers and are hoping that over time, this strategy will free up resources so that we can respond to new opportunities and issues by bringing on new organizations.