A grant seeker’s wish list

Boneyard StarsI prepared this grant seeker’s wish list for a foundation that had recently spun off from its corporate parent.

What is it that nonprofits want or need from grant makers?

At the very top, I put:

 # 1: Flexible, unrestricted operating funds.

According to the most recent data from The Foundation Center, only 23% of foundation grants go to general support.

 #2: Long-term donor investment

Every organization has to re-raise every dollar it receives each year. Having a reliable source of funding can improve stability and planning (though for some nonprofits, it can make them very lazy).

 #3: Other wants/needs

  • Larger donations that make a significant difference.
  • Gifts that deliver a high return on investment in time and direct costs.
  • Response to rapid change or emergency community needs.
  • Leadership development: A mismatch between organization needs and its people can sink an organization. Sometimes, changes need to be made. Other times, investment in leadership development can make a different. Areas for investment on my list include self-knowledge, managerial and leadership skills,  technical expertise in administration, human resources, fund development, program development, etc. (This is an investment in the whole sector as leaders switch organizations).

  • Investment in fund development capacity: This is near the top of my wish list. I’d like to see more foundations make significant investments in fund development capacity. For example, not one development director, but five people in the department. Other funding could go to professional development, planning, training, and supporting infrastructure.
  • Investment in other capacities, e.g. research, organization development transition needs, staff professional development, board development, strategic and business planning, evaluation, technology, financial forecasting/modeling, development of key performance indicators/organizational dashboards.
  • Funding to innovate, which includes funding to fail. The buzz is that nonprofits should take more risks. But who is there to catch them when they fail? It’s almost irrational to take financial risks in a nonprofit. Or, many times the first attempt doesn’t work. But it might on the second or third, but who funds that?
  • Capital, operating reserves, debt retirement, endowment (the last in some cases)
  • Turn-around financing: There are worthy causes that may have gotten into a downward slide due to poor management or some other bad decision. They need a turn around squad which is more than just an interim director, but other investments (like fund development, program evaluation, technology, communications) that can send the ship off in the right direction.
  • Feedback.

I’m sure I’ve missed some. What’s on your grant seekers wish list?

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