Special grantmaking: A purposeful, flexible resource for foundations

Many foundations that are guided by a long-term commitment to move the needle in a finite set of issue areas also hold “special grantmaking” funds. These program dollars can be flexibly deployed for nascent opportunities, innovative ideas, emergencies, local causes, and/or areas of high interest to their leaders.

Little has been written about special grants as a vibrant resource for philanthropy. While these funds are not always advertised publicly, they are more than purely discretionary. On the contrary, special grants can be made with purpose in mind and aim to advance the holistic goals of their respective foundations.

This essay is rooted in the experience and observations of Matthew La Rocque and Barbara Kibbe, members of the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation’s Effectiveness team. It explores the purpose of special grants, how they are made and monitored, and their advantages and challenges.