My Wish List for Grantmaking Foundations

Ann Fitzgerald President AC Fitzgerald author

Ann C. Fitzgerald, President

I’ve attended many conferences over the years where representatives from grantmaking foundations have shared their frustrations about nonprofits, especially when the organizations are requesting funding.

Many of these are quite valid! From my perspective, though, the frustrations exist on both sides. To that end, I thought I’d put together my wish list for grant making foundations:

Set up a website. It is 2022, after all. Even small family foundations can benefit by providing one page with clarity about funding priorities and the process.

 Make your online portal user-friendly. On a related note, if you accept inquiries or proposals online, allow approved grantees to download a copy of the full application to review before submitting. It’s very difficult to complete an application when you can only see one screen at a time.

Explain what you fund and what you DON’T fund. The more specifics, the better. Do you typically fund in one geographic area? Are some projects—such as events—not supported? Etc. Nonprofits don’t always do their due diligence but stating clearly what is or is not a fit helps a lot.

Provide deadlines. If possible, share details about when the foundation’s board meets and when you accept proposals.

Respond. Pick up the phone and respond to emails or letters if the nonprofit has done its research and falls within your giving guidelines. Give it the courtesy of a reply.

Give feedback. If you reject a proposal, and the nonprofit asks for feedback, please give an honest assessment. If the proposal was not a match or poorly written, say so. There’s no need to build false hopes for future funding if it will never happen.

Support some administrative expenses. Nonprofits are like businesses. They can’t operate without some administrative overhead costs. For instance, the development staffer who writes the grant proposal must be paid. Consider covering some portion of administrative expense in every grant you make.

Don’t assume. Unless you have had experience raising money for a nonprofit yourself, don’t assume that applying for a grant is easy or quick. Remember there is a lot of effort put in from the nonprofit’s team.

Remember that you are in the power position. You have the money. Assume your grantees will be deferential, regardless of how arcane your requirements are. Seek out honest assessments through confidential surveys if you truly want to improve your processes.

Ann C. Fitzgerald is Founder and President of AC Fitzgerald, using her decades of experience in fundraising, management, leadership, and sales to help nonprofits build their capacity and achieve success. She is a sought-after speaker, writer, and advisor.

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