Many foundations pour money down the drain by launching grant programs without first doing their homework. Funders should understand the needs of the issue or population they want to help, identify best practices and models that are already demonstrating success, and find the right partners to help them succeed. Here are the minimum things you should know:
1. Understand current needs and challenges.
You need to understand the scope and scale of the problem. How many and what types of people are affected? What impact is this having right now on families, communities, health care centers, or the local economy? Where, geographically, is this problem the greatest?
2. Anticipate future needs.
You need to anticipate what is likely to happen if the problem continues unchecked. For example, what will it mean for your city’s workforce ten years from now if high school graduation rates continue to hover at 60%?
3. Build on strengths.
A mistake most funders make is to focus only on problems. You also need to understand what’s working. What are the strengths you can build upon? Your strategies should help strengthen what’s working well and build on your community’s assets.
4. Determine your focus.
You likely have an overwhelming number of options that your foundation could pursue. Begin pruning these down to the one, two, or three ideas that are the most compelling, most in alignment with your foundation’s mission and culture, and most manageable to implement.
5. Identify best practices and darned good ideas.
You don’t want to reinvent the wheel. But you can identify “best practices” (thoroughly evaluated and determined to be effective), “promising practices” (evaluation is underway and the early results appear to demonstrate success) and “darned good ideas” (ideas that seem fabulous and worth trying, even if they’re untested). .
6. Find resources and partners.
Everywhere and for any problem, there are people, organizations, and other resources that can help you succeed. What experts can join your advisory group? What data are already being collected? What other foundations are supporting this issue?
To learn how to answer these questions and make more effective grants, read the full article here.
Posted by Kris Putnam-Walkerly © Kris Putnam-Walkerly and Philanthropy411, 2014.