Joelle Gamble
Principal, Reimagining Capitalism

Omidyar Network COVID-19 Economic Response Advocacy Fund Frequently Asked Questions

April 6, 2020

**The deadline to turn in new applications is June 5th.**

Is your organization working to pass urgently needed policies that not only address the toll of the COVID-19 pandemic on the lives of working people who were already struggling to make ends meet, but also realigns our economy so they are less vulnerable in the future? Do you fund organizations working to create a more balanced, inclusive, and equitable economy? If you answered yes to either of these questions, the Omidyar Network COVID-19 Economic Response Advocacy Fund could provide legislative advocacy funding to support critical policy outcomes.

What is the Omidyar Network’s COVID-19 Economic Response Advocacy Fund?

The Omidyar Network COVID-19 Economic Response Advocacy Fund will infuse 501c4 funding into national, state, and local advocacy and organizing efforts aimed at passing economic stimulus to address the immediate toll of the COVID-19 pandemic on working people while reshaping our economic structure to ensure they are less vulnerable in the future. Between now and the end of this year, Omidyar Network plans to award $1.5 million to groups working to realign this nation’s economic policies and systems so that they work better for everyone.

Do I have to be a current grantee of Omidyar Network to apply?

No, you do not have to be a current or past Omidyar Network grantee to apply for 501c4 dollars from the Fund. The Fund aims to immediately help organizations we are familiar with while engaging with new partners and moving money to coalition efforts as they materialize. Throughout the year, we plan to support a mix of existing and new partners. We are particularly interested in reaching grassroots groups that are under-resourced and hit the hardest by fundraising constraints stemming from the current tragedy and economic downturn. 

Receiving support from this fund does not increase the likelihood of additional support from Omidyar Network.  At the moment, we envision this as a one-time response to the pandemic and its economic fallout.

What types of projects are most likely to get funding?

We care about reimagining capitalism by fixing the structural economic problems that made working people in the United States so vulnerable to begin with. The Fund is not intended to support entirely new efforts. We are looking for campaigns that are already in motion and can leverage 501c4 funds to capture the attention of policymakers and propel their ideas forward. 

We plan to award 501c4 funds to give an extra boost to:

  • Direct advocacy efforts to achieve policy or regulatory solutions at the national, state, or local level that protect and assist working people and small businesses now and establish new precedents that improve worker power and well-being in the future;
  • Digital organizing that reconfigures campaigns that can no longer be carried out in person due to the virus;
  • Strategic communications, coordination, and narrative development among like-minded advocacy groups; and
  • Efforts that bring organizations together to create a louder, more unified voice calling for policy and regulatory changes at the national, state, or local level that result in a stronger economy.

Are there specific criteria an organization must meet to be eligible for support from the Fund?

We are looking for:

  • Organizations conducting advocacy related directly to the needs of working people, small businesses, or other constituencies central to our reimagining capitalism program;
  • Advocacy work tied to an existing campaign, program, or organizational priority (i.e., not something that is just getting underway);
  • Organizations that have the financial capacity to accepts and spend 501c4 dollars and are able to do their proposed advocacy work (i.e. financial stability);
  • Advocacy work that seeks to restructure the economy, either through the organization’s long-term strategy or mission OR through the organization’s strategic communications work; and
  • Organizations coordinating with a coalition of other groups on a specific policy fight related to reshaping the economy.

Applications are especially encouraged from 501(c)(4) organizations, 501(c)(3) organizations exercising the 501(h) election, or other tax exempt entities with organized policy efforts.

How much money can I request?

There is no limit on the amount of funding you can request as long as the entire amount is expressly for policy efforts that meet the intent of the Fund and will be carried out over the next 12 to 15 months.

Most organizing and advocacy efforts conducted by organizations are considered 501c3—or non-lobbying—activities. A discrete amount of 501c4 funding can often go a long way. As a result, we anticipate a majority of the grants from the Fund will be for $75,000 or less.

Not sure what activities require 501c4 funding? Alliance for Justice’ Bolder Advocacy offers a variety of fact sheets and other resources to help. 

Can I access funds to launch a new effort?

No. The Fund is not intended to support entirely new efforts. However, grants from the Fund may be used to add a 501c4 component to existing campaigns or bring together complimentary efforts.

I don’t need money for advocacy work. What I really need is general support funding. Can I still apply?

The Omidyar Network COVID-19 Economic Response Advocacy Fund aims to infuse national, state, and local advocacy and organizing efforts with 501c4 funding to help advance policies that support working people throughout the United States. While we understand many organizations in this field also need 501c3 funding, including general support dollars, the Fund is dedicated solely to support specific advocacy efforts that will be described in the funding application and the funding agreement.

When is the deadline for applications?

The deadline to send in applications is June 5th. Omidyar Network is currently accepting applications for 501c4 support. You can access an application here. Accessing the application requires the passcode “advocacy”. If you’re having difficulty with the PDF version, download the word version here using the same passcode.

Are there any restrictions on how I can use the funds?

The Fund is intended to provide strategic advocacy support to existing efforts. Thus, we will not disburse funding to programs that need to be started completely anew. However, we are open to supporting existing efforts that are adding an advocacy component to their work to leverage the current political and economic landscape.

Does that mean I can use the money to pay staff?

The Fund is intended to support direct lobbying or other advocacy efforts that are categorized as 501c4 activities. The funds can go to the portion of staff or consultant salaries or fees that are earmarked explicitly for 501c4 activities.

Can I use the money to purchase political ads or cover the cost of expenses related to my advocacy efforts?

Yes. As long as the funds are used to support direct lobbying or other advocacy efforts and go toward an existing campaign—or are used to add a 501c4 component to your current work—they can be used to cover the cost of related expenses. 

How does my organization apply for funding?

If your organization is running a state, local, or national campaign working to address the immediate toll of the COVID-19 pandemic on the livelihoods of working people and realign our economic structure to ensure they are less vulnerable in the future, you can access an application here. Accessing the application requires the passcode “advocacy”. If you’re having difficulty with the PDF version, download the word version here using the same passcode.

If my application is approved, how long will it take to get the funds?

We will review applications as they are received. If you are selected to receive a grant from the Fund, we will notify you and immediately move to disperse funds. 

Why is Omidyar Network doing this?

For decades, this country’s economic policies have deprioritized workers, incentivized fragility, and too often exacerbated inequality by putting corporate and shareholder interests over those of the public and delegitimizing the critical role government plays in our lives. Now, in the midst of this tragedy, we have an urgent need to hit reset and create an economic system that works for everyone, not just a wealthy few.

As federal, state and local economic responses take shape, we have heard from the field that there is a lack of 501c4 dollars needed to do direct lobbying and organizing around specific amendments or new legislation on behalf of working people and small businesses. The Fund plans to address this challenge and allow groups to access 501c4 funds quickly to advance policies to create a more balanced, inclusive, and equitable economy.

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