Grantors are as unique as the organization they seek to fund. They can be family foundations, community foundations, donor advised funds, corporations, or local businesses. Some grantors have been grantmaking for years while others are just entering the game.
No matter where the funding originates or how long the funder has been around, the following ideas could lend to a more streamlined grant process for all involved:
1. Be upfront about your mission and funding priorities.
Conserve the time, energy, and resources for both yourself and your potential grantees by outlining what you will and will not fund explicitly within your website and/or grant FAQ sheet. This should go beyond stating that you will only fund registered 501(c)3 organizations or that you won’t fund direct payments to individuals. This should be a short list of where your philanthropic heart lies- do you fund education, specifically for primary school-age children? Do you fund animal rescue organizations, but only those in California? This is also an ideal area to disclose your funding floors and ceilings so applicant organizations know what to expect.
2. Make your application process simple.
A higher number of questions on your application does not equate to a “better” application. Simplify the process with those questions your review team is really seeking insights on: a basic overview of the program/project, what funds would be used for, and the impact to be made through the funding of that program or project. Additional required attachments should be only include what is truly needed for the review team to make a funding decision- likely the program budget and the IRS determination letter. If you find yourself needing more information or clarification on application pieces, you should reach out to the applicant and not assume on behalf of the organization.
3. Don’t be afraid of follow-up emails, calls, or visits.
The grantor-grantee relationship does not begin and end with a paper application. The grant process should be a continuous stream of communication; grantees should not be afraid to reach out to you as they have questions, and you as the grantor should feel encouraged to reach out to organizations when questions arise on your end. While emails and calls are perfect for quick information needs, visits to your applicant organizations can show much more clearly the impact your funding would support. Don’t be afraid to ask for a tour or site visit!
4. Allow your potential grantees to choose their own outcomes within the application process.
Rather than forcing all your grantees to track and report metrics that they likely don’t report on already, allow your grantees to propose projected outcomes within their applications. Since your grantees are already carrying out charitable work that aligns with your own mission, a variety of outcomes from all your grantees will show a bigger picture of the impact your grant funding is making in the community.
5. Be honest.
So many nonprofits depend on grants to sustain the amazing work they do in the communities around us. Be upfront in the decision-making timeline so that these organizations know when to expect either an approval or declination of funding. For applications that stood out, you might tell the organizations why you found their proposals for funding so compelling (since it will help them for future applications.) If an application was not so appealing, consider giving the organization pointers for a stronger future application. Transparency is not just a trend for the organizations delivering services- it is meant for the entirety of the nonprofit sector.