There is a rise of ‘proactive philanthropy’ - where donors and grant makers seek out the organisations they want to fund. For charities and other voluntary sector organisations this means that rather than having the control of presenting yourself in an application form, you could be externally reviewed at any time. Here are my top tips for being ready
Is it better to be responsive or proactive in your philanthropy? There are downsides to both: being responsive can mean efforts are dispersed and impact diluted, whereas being proactive risks a funder driving the agenda without full knowledge and therefore missing opportunities. How does it work in practice?
Grant giving is not just a transfer of funds or a process, but an expression of trust. Awarding a grant is trusting that the organisation supported will do what they said they would with the money and will do their best to achieve what they are setting out to do. Whilst it is right to pay attention to the risks and to measure impact, I find that very little attention is paid to the other side of the coin: trust.
I love listening to podcasts – they are an intimate medium, you can listen when you want to, they are often advert-free and they offer a length and depth of experience that can fully absorb you on an otherwise boring commute. So which podcasts might be good for a philanthropist or philanthropy professional to listen to?
Ask any funder their top reason for turning down an application and they will say “because the applicant did not read the guidance”. Which begs the question: why don’t people read the guidance? Or if they do read it, why do they go ahead and apply anyway even though they don’t fit with the criteria. Here are the seven reasons I have come up with.
Being proportionate should also be a guiding principle for funders. The application, assessment and reporting processes should all be mindful of the effort spent by the applicant and grant holder. But the lack of external challenge and accountability means it is easy for funders to place taxing and time-consuming requirements on those seeking their funds.
‘Just writing a cheque’ has become a disparaging remark in philanthropy. Terms like ‘beyond chequebook philanthropy’ are used to describe more strategic and involved forms of giving. The assumption is that writing a cheque is a thought-free act. But giving money as a one-off donation does not necessarily mean that the donor has not thought long and hard about their gift.
The purpose of grant assessments is to determine the quality and eligibility of a proposal. It is these judgments that help a funder decide how best to allocate their resources. Reviewing the application form and supporting documents such as annual accounts, business plans and policies, gives an assessor one picture of the organisation. But if, as they say, “culture eats strategy for breakfast” then it is worth assessing culture as an important factor of a successful organisation. So how do we assess this?