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

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.

A decade ago, the National Center for Family Philanthropy wrote a Passages issue paper to examine family foundation practices around discretionary grants. For this Passages, we revisit the subject to see if trends in the use of these grants are changing. anecdotally, we know that some foundations cut back on their discretionary grantmaking budgets when the economy weakened. others have begun using them as a way to engage a new generation of board members. But what else is new with discretionary grants? it’s time for a fresh look.