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How to Implement a Successful Grantmaking Strategy

Make an impact with mission-driven strategic grantmaking.

The impact of grantmaking can be wide-reaching and significant. Getting funding is often the first step in conducting vital research, revolutionary initiatives, and programs that create change. It can foster collaboration and partnerships between organizations and individuals or communities, allowing them to work together toward common goals and objectives to drive positive change in the world. In short, grantmaking is critical in supporting important work.

The following guide to developing a grantmaking strategy will help your organization plan for progress.

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“The pandemic has highlighted the need for a refined grantmaking process that enables funders to deliver essential dollars to grantees quicker so that recipients can receive crucial services faster.”

– Katie Houck, Business Development Officer and Sarah Albright, Development Associate at Malala Fund

6 steps for strategic grantmaking

For grantmaking decisions to be thoughtful, equitable, and data-driven, a strategic grantmaking process must be in place. By following a strategic approach, funders can carefully consider the factors involved in choosing which initiatives to support, such as the initiative’s potential impact, the alignment with the organization’s goals and priorities, and the likelihood of success. This helps ensure that funds are used in the most effective and impactful way possible.

A strategic grantmaking process can also promote transparency and accountability. Establishing clear criteria and procedures for grantmaking decisions can help build trust with stakeholders while ensuring that grantmaking funds are accounted for and used responsibly.

By involving key stakeholders in the grantmaking process, organizations can foster collaboration and build partnerships with other organizations and individuals with similar goals and priorities. This can help leverage these organizations’ collective expertise and resources, ultimately leading to more effective and impactful outcomes.

Let’s look at six steps to guide grantmakers on the road to impactful giving.

1. Start with your purpose

Your mission is your organization’s purpose, intention, and reason for existence. As you begin your grantmaking strategy, consider what goals you’d like to accomplish in relation to your mission and ask:

  • What’s vital to your organization?
  • What are the needs of the communities you serve?
  • What program areas are important to your organization?
  • Where will your funds have the most impact?

Once you’ve answered these questions, you can begin to set guidelines around the types of initiatives your grant will support and your desired outcomes.

2. Don’t forget other budget needs

A strong grantmaking strategy also considers factors outside of giving a grant — like what expenses are involved in your process, such as grantmaking software, research, or consulting costs. Though it is an upfront expense, budgeting for software or administrators with grantmaking expertise could save time and money in the long run. Grantmaking software that can pre-qualify grant applicants or provide information about the nonprofit applicant could also save time in eliminating applicants who don’t meet baseline requirements.

3. Create your grant application

As with most endeavors, planning and organization at the beginning of the process ensure smoother sailing as you move through the operations. When you pair an easy-to-use grant application and clear guidelines, you create a better experience for applicants. 

When building the application form, ask these questions:

  • Is every question relevant to your grantmaking decision-making? 
  • Can you offer branched questioning or auto-fill to collect information from grantees based on their previous answers? 
  • Can applicants submit multiple types of files that reviewers can view in one place without downloading? 
  • Can applicants save their work and come back later?
  • Does your application allow for collaboration?
  • Is your application responsive and mobile-friendly? 
  • What can you add to your form to provide a top-tier user experience (UX)? webinar speakers

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4. Promote your grant

Now that you’ve developed a mission-driven grant opportunity, a well-defined budget, and a digital, accessible, streamlined application — you need applicants. 

For private grant opportunities, make sure you share relevant criteria, so they know what you are looking for in applications. That ensures qualified grantees submit applications. This saves time for both your grantees and your organization. 

For open grant opportunities, you’ll want to gather a large number of applicants. Consider using nonprofit marketing tactics such as social media, advertising, or press releases. By casting a wider net, you also increase equitable grantmaking by attracting new applicants who may not have known about your open opportunities.

5. Select a beneficiary

Reviewing grant applications is time-consuming but important work that requires thorough and thoughtful attention to detail. 

Whether it’s employees or external stakeholders who pitch in, your team members are the decision-makers for this crucial moment in your foundation’s legacy. Be sure your reviewers have the appropriate experience and diverse background (by gender, race, sexuality, disability, socioeconomic background, location, etc.) that represents the community you’re serving. 

When your team is in place, create a scoring system or rubric and train the team. Your review process might involve multiple rounds or levels that quickly reject ineligible applications, then analyze the remainder in steps before making a final selection. 

Once a selection has been made, notify the applicants who did not make the cut with a thoughtful, supportive rejection message. If an application was close but not the right fit for this grant, consider a personalized letter that offers constructive advice for future opportunities. 

Now it’s time to notify your award recipients. Schedule a phone call or meeting with your recipient to let them know and to hear more about their mission and needs.

Provide them with disbursement schedules, requirements and any reporting timelines they need to be aware of. Stay in contact with them to discover more ways to support them or their cause in addition to your grant.

6. Analyze and calibrate

Assess grant performance during every step of the grant lifecycle, focusing on outcomes. Doing so will help stakeholders and grantees stay engaged and invested while managing risk. 

Continual, data-driven discussions will improve communication and collaboration with grantees. Reporting from grantees should be analyzed, shared with key stakeholders, and used to make data-driven decisions.

Once a grant cycle is complete, hold an internal post-mortem. Make a list of ways the process could be even more efficient or effective next time. Can you improve team communication? Can your applications have a better user experience? Can your grant be more accessible to different audiences? Is your grant still aligned with your mission? If not, what needs to change?

Use this knowledge to improve your grantmaking and ensure your investments drive your philanthropic goals.

Products for effective grantmaking

Salesforce for Nonprofits offers flexible, customizable tools that allow you to ensure communities receive the investments that make an impact. With Salesforce’s Grantmaking solution, funders can: 

  • Build meaningful relationships.
  • Manage the entire grantmaking cycle in one place.
  • Create personalized communications for stakeholders.
  • Understand the outcomes of their grants and share the impact.

Find the right solution for your organization, foundation, or philanthropy.

Build trusted relationships and invest in a better future with grantmaking software.