A Letter Regarding Dyson Foundation Funding Guidelines Changes

January 2009


Dear Colleague: 

As we begin a new year, we want to tell you about some recent modifications to Dyson Foundation grants program guidelines. As we are all aware, the last year has brought great tumult to the financial markets and the impacts on the nonprofit sector are both broad and deep. We know that nonprofit organizations are already experiencing losses in funding from fees, fundraising, and public sector support, at a time when the needs of the clients and communities they serve are becoming more acute everyday.

In 2009 the Dyson Foundation plans to grant about the same amount of grant funding as we did last year (approximately $16.5 million), but we will be placing a stronger emphasis on supporting safety net programs such as food security, housing, access to basic heath care, and emergency assistance to low income families. Our revised guidelines also include increased funding for our Management Assistance Program and our Nonprofit Strategic Restructuring Initiative, which supports organizations through the process of alignment or merger.

These revised guidelines will allow us to target funds to those in our community that are most vulnerable while honoring our existing commitments.

While the economic downturn is a major reason for these changes, our decisions have also been informed by other factors including the results of the Many Voices One Valley 2007 report which highlighted the increasing lack of affordability of the Mid-Hudson Valley, and a revitalized commitment to helping nonprofit organizations achieve greater efficiency and  performance.

Our funding priorities for Mid-Hudson Valley project and general operating support grants will focus on organizations that provide:

  • Core health care, human services, and safety-net programs (housing, food security, and emergency assistance);
  • Employment and workforce development;
  • After-school programs for low-income children and youth.
We are increasing management technical assistance grants and strategic restructuring funds. The Management Assistance Program (MAP) is designed to improve the organizational health of nonprofits by providing capacity-building assistance. Nonprofits in the region are eligible to apply for these small grants to improve operations, administration, and management. This program also includes a cash flow loan component. Our Nonprofit Strategic Restructuring Initiative provides information and funding to organizations considering or engaging in strategic restructuring. The possibilities range from jointly managed programs and consolidated administrative functions to full-scale mergers. The benefits of restructuring can include a reduction in duplicated services, improved efficiency, and increased financial stability. In collaboration with the Community Foundation of Dutchess County we will also be offering series of workshops designed to help organizations to face the challenges of this economic recession. The first of this series will be held on January 27, 2009 and will be led by Clara Miller, President and CEO of the Nonprofit Finance Fund. We will be sending further information about this session in the near future.

Another major change in our grants program at this time is that we will no longer be making grants for capital campaigns or capital projects.  Nonprofit finance experts are adamantly advising against launching a new capital or building project in the kind of economic climate we are experiencing. Taking on additional debt or the costs of a new facility seems especially risky at this time, particularly for small or under-financed nonprofits. Consequently the Foundation will not consider new capital requests. Existing pledges will be honored.  

In addition, in light of our new emphasis on safety net programs, we will make no new grants to environmental, historic preservation, or arts and cultural organizations other than for management technical assistance or strategic restructuring. The Foundation will honor existing pledges. We know that for some, these changes come at an especially bad time, as local, state, and federal contributions to nonprofit providers have also been dramatically reduced and there is a predicted reduction in charitable giving from individuals. However, we believe that these modifications are in best interests of our community in the long run.

While we do feel that these modifications in our guidelines are temporary, we cannot forecast a time frame for their expiration. We are confident that the economy will regain its vitality, and that the nonprofit sector will emerge from these times stronger, more vibrant, and re-focused. However, we expect that these guidelines will remain in effect into 2010 and possibly beyond. This information about our grants program changes has been posted to the Dyson Foundation’s website, www.dysonfoundation.org, and we will post updates whenever needed. If you have any questions or concerns about this letter, please feel free to contact us. 

Sincerely,                                                                                    

Diana M. Gurieva                                        Robert R. Dyson
Executive Vice President                              President