Donors often care about specific issues and therefore, look for grant recipients working with a particular target population. Internationally, one often sees grant makers or foundations approaching individual nonprofit organizations to see if they are the right fit for their grant. In China, we see that this can often lead to a lack of transparency. This is why we recommend grant makers to cast a wide net and publicly posting their search for grantees. Organizations are always looking for funds and so they are motivated to find you. We find that this is also the more efficient and effective way from the donor’s perspective to find the right grant recipients. With a higher volume of applicants, you are more guaranteed in making sure you are placing your investment in the right hands.
Some donors believe in giving small funds, which can lead to only small change. We encourage donors to find organizations that will push to find the root of the issue and actively problem-solve to find solutions.
Based on our experience, we have listed points we believe to be important when it comes to screening potential grantees and how to support your grant recipients so that they can maximize the positive change:
The Screening Process:
- Look for organizations that are self-motivated and cause-based. Ideally organizations are not donor-motivated. This can lead to a change in their vision to cater to the donor.
- Organizations can often become competitive with other organizations working on the same social issue. One organization cannot solve a social issue entirely. We strive to support organizations that have a track record of openly sharing their experience with peer organizations and actively invest in their own team members.
- A focus on learning particularly when it comes to cause and methodology is an indicator that the organization values targeting the main issue and is goal oriented with regards to finding a solution.
- We want ambitious organizations that keep pushing for more and better.
Nurture the Promising ones:
- Keep pushing for more and better always - We believe our grantees are our partners. This means we consistently meet to discuss progress, issues, and outcomes. A strong relationship means we can work together to dig deeper, ask the harder questions, and find the large scale and effective solutions.
- Invest and build up the organization - Identify the potential challenge and give them opportunities to build up their capacity and capability (i.e. human resources, finances infrastructure) for higher efficiency and effectiveness to achieve more for the beneficiaries we care about.
- Outside voice that focuses on the cause and goal - Sometimes too many resources and opportunities could be distracting and difficult to say no to. We serve as a voice that keeps them focused on the end goal.
- Have patience and allow successful failing – Failure is inevitable and necessary when finding the right solution. It requires money and time. As the donor, we recognize this part of the journey to success.
- Longevity - Help your grantees build a network for resource and peer learning/coach/outside consultants to ensure when the grant ends, they have long-term sustainability.
Contributed by Sherry Chen