Grantmaking is the central, most rewarding activity of a family foundation or donor advised fund and the reason for its existence. It is your family’s opportunity to make a difference in areas that matter most to you. As grantmakers, you move beyond just talking about societal problems to looking for ways you can help solve them. Your task is to figure out how to turn your family’s concerns into a cohesive philanthropic vision and, from there, into grants that have impact.
In developing your grantmaking strategy, your board may wish to discuss these questions:
- Given our overall mission, what kinds of nonprofits will we fund? What kind of grants do we want to make?
- Will our grantmaking have a geographic focus, a programmatic focus or both?
- If there’s a geographic focus, will it be local, regional, national, or global in scope?
- Will we solicit proposals or not?
- Will our grants be large or small? Short- or long-term? Used to provide general operating support or advance specific projects?
- Will we give capital grants? Scholarships? Matching or challenge grants? Leadership development grants? What about program-related investments?
- How will we make our guidelines available?
- How will we make our grants?
- How will we determine how much to give, taking into consideration our mission, payout requirements, taxes, and investment performance?
- How often will we give grants? What will our funding cycle look like?
- How will we screen proposals? What will we look for in nonprofits and projects?
- Who will seek out potential funding opportunities? The full board? Staff? A committee? Who will prepare the slate of these funding opportunities? How?
- How and when will we make site visits?
- How will we notify nonprofits that their proposals were accepted or rejected?
- How will grants be monitored? How will we know how foundation money was spent?
- How will grants be evaluated? How will we know if and how foundation money made a difference?
- How will we share this information with others to advance the causes we care about and the field in general?
Find out how today's giving families are answering these questions by browsing the resources below. Remember that, despite the tremendous difference a grant can make, you should not overlook the total impact a philanthropic institution can have. Socially responsible investments, community investments, and shareholder advocacy can make a positive difference. You can advocate, volunteer, provide in-kind donations and technical assistance, serve as a community convenor and more. Grants are not all you have to give.
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