Do the Homework


Before entering into a grantmaking relationship, the onus of due diligence should be on the grantmaker, not the grantseeker.


Steps You Can Take

  • Reduce pre-proposal requirements for grant applicants

  • Be proactive in getting to know prospective grantees through research and asking for recommendations

  • Use available public records to understand a prospective grantee’s purpose, programs, leadership, and financial standing

  • Look beyond your usual circles to identify organizations that are aligned with your foundation’s values and vision, but that may be overlooked due to implicit bias


The Difference It Will Make

  • Alleviates power imbalance by putting the onus of due diligence on the grantmaker

  • Saves grantees from wasting time on unnecessary paperwork in early vetting stages

  • Paves the way for a more trusting and rewarding relationship with grantees


What It Looks Like

“Rather than using a formal application process, we invite prospective grantees to submit an application or proposal they have already submitted to another funder, and if we need more information, we follow up to get that. We spend the time to get to know a prospective grantee partner up front. Whenever possible, we meet with them at their offices, and go to sessions, classes, conferences they are leading.”

- Phil Li, Robert Sterling Clark Foundation


But What About...

“How do you ensure that you aren’t just funding those who you have ‘chemistry’ with?”

Establishing clear, defined criteria at the outset can help guide mission-aligned decision-making. It is also important to make sure your vetting processes include diverse perspectives—among your referral sources as well as the staff who are doing the research—to allow for greater exposure to groups you may not come across otherwise.


From the Blog

“Doing the homework and spending time with prospective grantees is the beginning of building a relationship – whether we move forward or not – and gives them cues about our foundation’s values and approach.”

—Phil Li, Robert Sterling Clark Foundation