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
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.
© 2014 Kris Putnam-Walkerly. All rights reserved. Permission granted to excerpt or reprint with attribution.