Questions to Help You Develop Your Grantmaking Strategy

Know the right questions to ask.

If your foundation is planning to develop or rethink its grantmaking strategy, there are many questions that your board might want to bring up for discussion. This slide show offers an overview of questions you will want to be sure to consider as delve into this important conversation.

Questions to help you develop your grantmaking strategy

How do we transform our values and dreams into a grantmaking vision?

Even if your family doesn’t have a clear sense of what they want their philanthropy to accomplish, all of you know that you want to do this work together. That’s where you find common ground when it comes to turning your ideas into something tangible. Ask: “What are our shared values and interests? How can we define a mission that speaks to our shared philanthropic dream?”

What does our mission statement say about us?

Your mission statement is your foundation’s roadmap, so your board will find its starting point here. Begin by asking, “Given our overall mission, what kinds of nonprofits will we fund? What sort of grants do we want to make?”

What goals should we set for payout?

There are many factors that go into a determination of your annual spending policy. When your board considers its mission statement, financial requirements, tax obligations and investment performance, what amount makes the most sense? Are your goals for the short- or long-term?

Should we focus on a geographic area?

Grantmaking can have a geographic as well as a programmatic focus—does your foundation include just one or employ both? If your board decides to pursue a geographic focus, will it be regional, national or global in scope? How will you set boundaries within the area you choose?

How should we communicate with grantee partners?

Setting up a communications plan simplifies the grantmaking process and helps prevent misunderstandings among potential grantees. Consider whether or not you should solicit proposals, and how best to make your guidelines available to potential grantees. How will you notify nonprofits when their proposals are accepted or rejected?

What factors should we consider for grantmaking?

Grants may be large or small, short-term or long-term and general or specific in purpose. Your board may choose consistent guidelines for each grant or base them on special circumstances. Other ideas include capital grants, scholarships, matching or challenge grants, leadership development grants and program-related investments—what’s best for your foundation?

How should we manage our grantmaking process?

Answering the questions that arise from this one question gets to the heart of your goals and establishes your grantmaking process. Ask: “How will we screen proposals? What will we look for in nonprofits or projects? How often will we give grants? How often will we make site visits?” Also, consider who will seek potential funding opportunities—are you best served by the full board, staff members, a grants committee, or some combination?

How should we evaluate the impact of each grant?

Monitoring and evaluating the impact of your grants is crucial; otherwise, how will you know if the foundation’s money made a difference? Consider what sort of criteria you should use to track how foundation money is spent and how it made a difference. After you evaluate your grants, will you share this information with others in the field to advance your cause?

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Developing or Renewing Your Foundation Strategy

This Content Collection features NCFP research, webinars, and additional resources to use as your foundation or family considers its overall strategy and approach to philanthropy.

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