11 Essential Practices for Effective Grantmaking

The options for effective grantmaking are more varied today than ever. What used to involve simply making financial gifts to qualified nonprofits now has grown to include public-private partnerships, social impact investing, program-related investing, crowdfunding, and many more avenues for achieving a foundation’s mission. Whether your foundation is just getting off the ground or has a venerated history that’s about to enter a new phase, you’ll have many choices to consider as you plan your way forward.

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A Consumers Guide to Grants Management Systems 2016

This in-depth report has been expanded for 2016 to look at the features and processes used by more than 30 grants management system. The Consumers Guide to Grants Management Systems compares the strengths and weaknesses of these different grants management packages to see how they stack up against industry standards.

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Advocacy Capacity Tool

Assessing the capacity of the organizations you fund to deliver on those efforts can be difficult. ACT is a powerful tool for foundations that want to understand and evaluate the skills and readiness of their grantees, identify the specific gaps and opportunities in their own advocacy portfolios, and focus resources where they matter most.

Categories: Grantmaking, Grants Management, Legal Issues and Laws, General Grants 

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Assessing Impact

This guide reviews various ways to assess philanthropic impact. It looks at what assessment can accomplish and what it has difficulty measuring. It sets out a series of questions donors can ask as they consider how to proceed with their philanthropy. And finally, it details some of the limitations inherent in trying to understand exactly how donors’ dollars are working.

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Assessing Nonprofit Networks Prior to Funding: Tools for Foundations to Determine Life Cycle Phase and Function

Foundations and other funders can use life cycle analysis tools to determine a nonprofit network’s stage of development and functional characteristics as a precursor to funding network activities. Characteristics that determine a network’s readiness for funding include network cohesion (trust and communication), cooperation (mutual purpose and goals), and capacity for externally focused action. Network Mindset Survey analysis can help determine a network’s readiness for funding by measuring members’ understanding of the power and utility of networks; degree of membership engagement; identification of specific, common concerns; and readiness for productive action. Three networks that received foundation support for networking principles, mapping, Read more

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Assessing the How of Grantmaking

This resource identifies core questions that every grantmaking organization should be able to answer about how its grantmaking works. Within each core question, we suggest sub-questions that further define the type of data to collect and provide guidance for how grantmakers might place the answers in context. We also suggest examples of specific data that your organization can collect and track in order to answer the core questions.

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Catalyzing Networks for Social Change: A Funder’s Guide

GEO and Monitor Institute partnered to release this guide, to explore what it takes for grantmakers to cultivate a network mindset, offer recommendations for how funders can effectively build the capacity of networks and identify five network approaches that are helping grantmakers and social change makers to harness the power of networks.

Categories: Grants Management, Grantmaking and Changemaking, Resources

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Change Incubator Story — What Are Some Whys and Hows of Grantee Inclusion?

One of the goals of this program is for the participants to share their experiences with the broader field. See what grantmakers have learned while developing strategies, particularly as it relates to the principles, practices and benefits of grantmaker-grantee partnerships.

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Changemaking: Building Strategic Competence

Foundations have begun to recognize that how they go about their work is as important as what they support. To be better armed to address the urgent challenges facing Detroit’s children, the Skillman Foundation has adopted a changemaking role that draws upon and leverages its knowledge, networks, and civic reputation to supplement its grantmaking investments. Effective changemaking depends on the accrual of trust and respect that is built over time in relationships with community residents and stakeholders, public and private partners, and others with influence and resources. Changemaking required the foundation to build new strategic competencies such as working across Read more

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Do Your Homework to Increase Grantmaking Success

When funders develop new grantmaking strategies, they should dedicate time and resources to understanding the needs of the issue or population they want to help, identifying best practices and models that are already demonstrating success, and finding the right partners to help them succeed. Putnam Consulting Group gives six steps to successful funding.

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Due Diligence

In this guide, we dispel five myths, distinguish between legal compliance and the rest of the due diligence process, and clarify legal requirements.

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EPIcenter: Evaluate Practice Improvements

EPIcenter is a benchmarking library that enables users to evaluate practice improvements by learning how others handle specific issues and comparing their own methods against those of other grantmakers. The EPIcenter will enable GMN to document how funders are making grants now, see how practices are changing over time, and determine whether and how grantmakers are adopting effective practices. Six mini-surveys cover the following topics: grant applications, grant decisions, grant reporting, grant monitoring, compliance, and paperless grantmaking.

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Evaluating Community Change: A Framework for Grantmakers

Place-based initiatives involve multiple partners joining together to tackle pressing community-wide issues. In order to better understand and quantify the positive impact of these complex, long-term initiatives, this publication offers a framework of measures and potential indicators that can help grantmakers’ evaluating process and ultimately improve their work.

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Foundation Grantmaking over the Economic Cycle

This 2015 brief covers a conference discussion on whether grantmaking might productively be made more countercyclical and examines changes in foundation grantmaking between 1997 and 2010, largely based on National Center for Charitable Statistics data.

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Foundation Support for Election-Related Activity

Supporting election-related activities is an effective way for foundations to strengthen democracy by broadening the civic dialogue and giving a voice to underrepresented communities. Find out how your foundation can support election related activities in this fact sheet.

Categories: Grants Management, Legal Issues and Laws, General Grants 

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Foundations Don’t Know What They’re Risking

Critical gaps exist in philanthropy’s definitions of and approach to risk management. This article describes the scope of the problem and a framework for philanthropists to adopt risk-management practices that better equip the sector to address the challenges of our time.

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Grantmaking Should Be Grounded in Real Costs

This article explores what needs to be done in order to ensure that effective grantmaking is grounded in understanding the real costs of operating individual nonprofit organizations.  This article was originally published as Pay-What-It-Takes-Philanthropy, published by the Stanford Social Innovation Review in June of 2016.

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Grants Management and the Foundation of the Future

Grants Managers Network (now PEAK Grantmaking) looked across the field to better understand attitudes and perceptions about grants management and grantmaking practices. They took deep dives to learn more about foundations that are intentionally moving toward “successful structures” that integrate operations and program for greater impact.

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Great Power, Great Responsibility: Grantmakers’ Role as Conveners

Funders are finding ways to use the power of convening to benefit their grantees and their communities in countless ways. GEO’s digital publication contains a series of ideas to help grantmakers become better at bringing stakeholders together.

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I’m Not Rockefeller: Implications for Major Foundations Seeking to Engage Ultra- High-Net-Worth Donors

This article describes how a group of 33 ultrahigh- net-worth philanthropists (UHNWPs) approach their giving. A few key areas dominated their giving priorities: education; health; poverty and social welfare; and children/youth initiatives each were a priority for more than a quarter of participants – with education expressed as an interest of 55 percent. A third of the 24 who responded to the question spent less than 10 percent of their full working time devoted to philanthropy, and 13 dedicated less than 20 percent of their working time. UHNWPs view their peers as their most trusted information resource. After peers, the Read more

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Innovations in Open Grantmaking

This publication seeks to provide inspiration and early proof of concept regarding innovative practices at every stage of the grantmaking process. The examples and lessons included can act as suggested guidelines for future research and experimentation around more openly and effectively providing access to public money.  

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Interview – Theo Sowa, African Women’s Development Fund

‘We all have power, different types of power. When we don’t acknowledge that power, it’s easier for others to step all over us.’ As both grantmaker and fundraiser, the African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF) has been on both sides of the fence. As a result, Theo Sowa, AWDF CEO and chair of the African Grantmakers Network, has very clear views about the use and abuse of power. Caroline Hartnell asked her what power AWDF has and how it seeks to use it responsibly, and about the importance of African women setting their own agenda.

Categories: Mission, Vision and Values, Grants Management

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Interview: Fay Twersky

The philanthropy programme at the Hewlett Foundation is changing. Fay Twersky, director of its Effective Philanthropy Group, tells Caroline Hartnell how and why. She talks about Hewlett’s new emphasis on ‘two-way openness’ and collaboration and the need to create incentives to encourage foundations and grantees to be more open. Finally, she offers her views on ‘emergent philanthropy’ and effective altruism.

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Investing for Impact: Building the Capacity and Infrastructure of High-Performing Nonprofits

Investing for Impact: Building the Capacity and Infrastructure of High-Performing Nonprofits explores the experience of Social Innovation Fund subgrantees to understand the capacities that enabled these nonprofits to scale up their programs rapidly and the types of support from their intermediary grantmakers that proved most helpful. While the SIF model may differ from other grantmaking, the experiences of subgrantees and intermediaries have much to offer the broader philanthropic community in reinforcing what it takes to grow nonprofit impact.

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Leveraging Grantmaking: Understanding the Dynamics of Complex Social Systems

The nonobvious interrelationships among elements in a complex system often thwart people’s best intentions to sustainably improve system performance. The complex, nonlinear problems that most foundations address can be solved most effectively by thinking systemically instead of linearly about these problems. Systems thinking offers a range of analytic tools to improve our capacity to think systemically, including ways to distinguish problem symptoms from root causes, reinforcing and balancing feedback, system archetypes, mental models, and system purpose and goals. Applying these tools enables us to target high leverage interventions that can lead to sustainable, system-wide improvement. These tools can be applied Read more

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Many Hands, More Impact: Philanthropy’s Role in Supporting Movements

GEO has prepared a publication that provides a framework for understanding the array of roles that funders can play in supporting movements and networks. Many Hands, More Impact: Philanthropy’s Role in Supporting Movements offers an orientation to some of the inherent benefits and barriers to supporting movements and provides insight into ways that grantmakers can explore collaborative efforts for social change.

Categories: Grantmaking, Grants Management, Organization Learning and Evaluation 

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Mapping the Future: Foundations and the Redistricting Process

This fact sheet provides guidance for public foundations to safely and legally participate in the redistricting process and fund grantees that engage in this work.

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Philanthropy Lessons: The Power Dynamic

Funders must be aware of the power dynamic that exists between those who give away money and those who rely on philanthropic gifts, be empathetic to it, and be supportive. When we acknowledge this dynamic, bring grantees into the conversation, and build authentic, trusting relationships, we increase the opportunity to create meaningful impact together. In the newest video in our Philanthropy Lessons series and campaign, learn how to work well with grantees and hear how relationship building can help funders manage the power dynamic.

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Private Foundation vs. Donor-Advised Fund Comparison Chart

This guide will tell you the difference between a private foundation or a donor advised one and help you figure out which one is best for you.

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Private Foundations May Advocate

While private foundations incur a prohibitive tax when they engage in or fund advocacy, they may still engage in a variety of advocacy activities. This fact sheet explains how private foundations can engage in a variety of advocacy activities.

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Project Streamline Champions Toolkit

These tools and resources can be used to understand your current practice, make the case for streamlining, benchmark against colleague organizations, and identify opportunities to make meaningful change.

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Project Streamline: Why Practices Matter

This page includes two publications, “Practices That Matter” and “Making More Time for Mission,” these will help you to form effective and efficient to ensure that you direct the maximum amount of resources to mission—both yours and your grantees’.

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Public Foundations Can Lobby

501(c)(3) public charities, including grantmaking public charities like community foundations and women’s foundations, can lobby within the generous limits allowed by federal law. This fact sheet explains the lobbying rules for public foundations.

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Reflection on Practice Video: The Grantmaker’s Role

In this video, Ford Foundation former president Susan Berresford shares her perspective on grant making and issues grant makers commonly face as they take up the role.

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Reframing Assessment of Grantee Perceptions: Reconsidering Effectiveness With Broader International Stakeholder Engagement

Stakeholder engagement is important in philanthropy because it allows grantmakers and grantees to pool their respective resources more effectively to address their shared target issues. As more and more foundations and other grantmaking entities venture into the expansive world of self-evaluation, it is prudent that these methods be examined in light of international funding relationships. In order to better understand how these tools and methods can be used internationally, we outline the opportunities presented when using frames as one basis for decision-making in complex situations. Using the hypothetical case of a U.S. funder seeking to understand grantee perception in East Read more

Categories: Grants Management, Organization Learning and Evaluation , Beyond the Grant 

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Sharpen Your Focus – 5 Questions That Will Improve Your Grantmaking

Giving money away is a complicated business, but Putnam Consulting Group has found a few simple questions that can bring a lot of clarity to the process. The questions are straightforward, but they lead to deep issues that can have a profound impact on the way you direct your grantmaking. As you consider your next initiative, take some time to ask these questions.

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Site visits: A useful tool for effective and engaged grantmakers

This article discusses how site visits can help families to evaluate how well a grant already awarded is working in accomplishing the philanthropy’s goals. Visiting grantees, in an open and un-intimidating manner, can help you gauge the impact your grant is having on a given issue or organization, and to maintain ties to the community, which will help you to be responsive to its changing needs. It can also be a great way to remain actively involved with the organizations you fund, and a pressure-free way to introduce your children or other next generation family members to your philanthropy.

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Smarter Philanthropy for Greater Impact: Rethinking How Grantmakers Support Scale

This sponsored supplement, “Smarter Philanthropy for Greater Impact: Rethinking How Grantmakers Support Scale,” was produced by Stanford Social Innovation Review for Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO). It was created to capture the latest thinking about how nonprofit organizations, grantmakers, public funders, and social entrepreneurs can increase the impact of successful solutions to urgent social challenges. In the following pages, leaders from across the social sector offer their perspectives on “scaling what works”—what it means, what it takes to do it right, and what needs to happen to ensure that proven and promising solutions find their way to more communities and Read more

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Strategic Co-Funding: An Approach for Extended Impact

Co-published by GEO and REDF as an update to REDF’s 2008 article “Out of Philanthropy’s Funding Maze: Roadmap #1, Strategic Co-Funding,” designed to re-introduce the idea of strategic co-funding and highlight effective strategies and current examples.

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Successful Structures: Rethinking the Role of Grants Management

In our exploration of successful structures, we studied organizations of different sizes, types, missions, and cultures. We identified a set of common practices supported by certain organizational characteristics and behaviors that, over time, are building successful structures. These characteristics and behaviors boil down to five essential guidelines for realizing a successful grantmaking structure designed to integrate the “how” of grantmaking with foundation strategy and impact

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Supporting Grantee Capacity: Strengthening Effectiveness Together

In this publication, we look at how funders approach building capacity with grantees. Through examples from foundations ranging in size, mission, and geography, we explore various strategies for capacity building and the types of awareness that funders can choose to incorporate in decision making to facilitate informed, thoughtful judgments about strengthening organizations.

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Supporting Social Entrepreneurship

For philanthropists accustomed to more traditional grantees, yet interested in backing these groundbreaking leaders, funding social entrepreneurs can feel like entering uncharted territory. Donors might find themselves intrigued by the potential for change, and yet, at the same time, unsure of what to expect in a field where the unexpected is the norm. That’s why we wrote this brief guide. Think of it as an introduction to social entrepreneurship. Part of our Philanthropy Roadmap series, the guide is designed to help philanthropists evaluate whether they want to include support for social entrepreneurs in their giving or investment programs, and how Read more

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The Family Difference? Exploring the Congruence in Grant Distribution Patterns Between Family and Independent Foundations

Using a broad group of family and independent foundations from a representative sample of Georgia foundations, the authors examined differences in giving patterns between family and independent foundations. Findings confirm the result of previous work that studied large foundations. There are no substantial differences between family and independent foundations’ preferences even when controlling for a nonprofit’s location and size. These findings are relevant for discussions about the role of non-family members on boards.

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The Smarter Grantmaking Playbook

We know that grantmakers who understand and act in the best interest of grantees achieve better results. Practicing smarter grantmaking can make the difference between pretty good performance and achieving the best possible results. But, where should you start? Take smarter steps forward in your grantmaking with The Smarter Grantmaking Playbook. Find the answers you seek to more than 50 common questions captured from your GEO peers. Receive a primer on the grantmaking practices that are most supportive of nonprofit success. Turn knowledge into action with practical tools, frameworks and related resources that you can share with your colleagues to Read more

Categories: Grantmaking, Grants Management, Beyond the Grant 

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The State of General Operating Support 2011

This report shows how much money is used for general operating support from grants.

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Toolkit for Racial, Ethnic and Tribal Funds and Foundations

This toolkit is designed to walk you through some of the key steps and choices to consider as you establish or grow your fund, reflecting lessons & experience gathered from existing funds/foundations.

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Ukraine: foundations, the crisis and the future

Since the explosion of popular protest in Maidan Square, Ukraine has been riven by civil and political strife whose character and shape is often as difficult to discern as its eventual outcome. In this supercharged atmosphere of political protest and martial posturing, what have foundations been doing to help those caught up in events or struggling to reshape their country?

Categories: Grants Management, Issue Specific Grantmaking, Beyond the Grant 

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Values-Based Grantmaking: Why It Matters

According to a survey of our members and others in philanthropy, we found that, while many believe that grantmaking process and structure very much (65%) or moderately (25%) affect the ultimate success of grants, many grantmakers (41%) believe that assessing and changing how grants are made isn’t a priority. One way PEAK Grantmaking is seeking to encourage members to analyze their practices is by engaging them in conversations on whether their practices reflect the values that are explicit or implicit to their organizations.

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What does effective due diligence look like?

Due diligence is a process that helps grantmakers get to know grantseekers. Typically, it’s seen strictly as a means to ensure an organization’s financial and legal compliance. However, when done well, due diligence has the potential to provide insight into such critical attributes as the role of the organization’s board, the position the nonprofit holds in its field and community, and the level of alignment between our own mission and the goals of the grantseeker. The difficult part of due diligence is in asking the right questions and in a way that makes the most of the nonprofit’s time and Read more

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Why Every Funder Should Consider Participatory Grantmaking

This blog post discusses participatory grantmaking. This type of grantmaking demonstrates a paradigm shift in how funders work with grantees as agents of change in their communities rather than simply as beneficiaries of aid. It goes beyond grantmaking into the importance of advancing public and democratic participation in decision making. In essence, the process itself is part of the impact.

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Working Better Together: Building Nonprofit Collaborative Capacity

Collective action is an effective way for nonprofits to increase their impact, but key capacities are needed to enable these types of partnerships to thrive. This publication offers insights on the core capacities nonprofits need to collaborate and how funders can help.

Categories: Grantmaking, Grants Management

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