Discretionary Grants

About this collection: This Content Collection includes NCFP's two timeless issue briefs on the use and possible challenges of Discretionary Grantmaking, as well as sample forms and policies related to discretionary grants.

If you asked at a gathering of family foundation folks whether using discretionary grants is a good idea, you’d never reach consensus. Many family foundations don’t use them. Those that do have widely varied policies governing how much money is available, who is eligible to make the grants, and whether the grants must be within the foundation’s mission and guidelines.

This Content Collection includes NCFP’s two timeless issue briefs on the use and possible challenges of Discretionary Grantmaking, as well as sample forms and policies related to discretionary grants.

Featured resources

Discretionary Grants: Engaging Family… or Pandora’s Box?

Passages Issue Briefs
If you asked at a gathering of family foundation folks whether using discretionary grants is a good idea, you’d never reach consensus. Many family foundations don’t use them. Those that do have widely varied policies governing how much money is available, who is eligible to make the grants, …

Discretionary Grants: Encouraging Participation… or Dividing Families?

Passages Issue Briefs
The practice of discretionary grantmaking brings out a wide variety of responses. This Passages Issue Brief looks at the common reasons that families use or opt not to use discretionary grants, and the typical process that is used to make these types of grants. The paper also examines how different …
December 8, 2011

Discretionary Grants: Encouraging Participation… or Pandora’s Box?

Family foundation boards that offer discretionary grants to their individual trustees and staff have a variety of reasons for doing so. Those who do not cite a number of potential barriers - both practical and philosophical - for this decision. Learn more in this wide-ranging discussion, featuring …

Discretionary Grants Guide

Tool
Discretionary grants are those made at the discretion of individual trustees or other authorized individuals, without the standard approval process and/or review by the full board. The purpose of this guide is to detail the benefits and concerns of discretionary grantmaking. We also provide recommendations and key best practices …

Sample policies, forms, and letters

FAQ: How to apply for a discretionary grant

Sample
This FAQ page describes The Knott Foundation’s guidelines around discretionary grantmaking, and provides a good example for other family foundations. The Knott Foundation provides a limited number of Discretionary Grants on a rolling basis throughout the year.

How Do Family Foundations Typically Provide Discretionary Grants?

Ask the Center
Q: How do family foundations typically provide discretionary grants? What about for committee members that aren’t board members? A: According to our 2015 Trends in Family Philanthropy study, “Most family foundations (85 percent) allow individual board members to recommend discretionary grants for foundation funds.” Each family foundation ultimately has to find …

How to Apply for a Discretionary Grant (Marion I. and Henry J. Knott Foundation)

Sample
This FAQ page describes The Knott Foundation’s guidelines around discretionary grantmaking, and provides a good example for other family foundations. The Knott Foundation provides a limited number of Discretionary Grants on a rolling basis throughout the year. These grants, ranging between $500 to $2,500, are designed to increase the Foundation’s …