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The Ideal Marriage: Foundations and You

An ideal marriage between a foundation and a grantee requires commitment to a shared vision. Projects and beneficiaries are the common ground between a donor awarding grants and an applicant seeking funds. The primary focus for a foundation is requesting excellent outcomes from grantees. The key emphasis for the requester is proving that their project aligns with the foundation’s mission and is worth the foundation’s investment. This, however, is only the beginning of an ideal marriage. The groundwork for both begins with a strong strategic vision that is ongoing, visionary, and open to change.Taking risks, pushing for new and better approaches and innovative solutions, and engaging with the each other in a spirit of trust, communication, and transparency are just a few of the ways a marriage can be made between the two entities.

Hopeful Nonprofit Seeks Supportive Foundation

A foundation’s financial support should be based on a solid strategic plan of what they want to accomplish and the areas that they wish to fund. They set the expectations and standards of the plan of action or research. Foundations do vary, but those that make a difference are collaborative, supportive, and have clear, well-defined missions and goals. They work in partnership with grantees to ensure that the results they are both seeking are carefully scrutinized in every step of the implementation.

The Gates Foundation serves as an excellent example of collaboration between the donor and the grantee. A quotation from their website succinctly states: “We do all of our work in collaboration with grantees and other partners, who join with us in taking risks, pushing for new solutions, and harnessing the transformative power of science and technology. We strive to engage with our grantees and partners in a spirit of trust, candid communication, and transparency.”

Successful Foundation Searching for Reliable Nonprofit

In turn, a nonprofit should prove its strength to the donor through its governance structure, transparency, accountability, ethical fundraising, careful planning, civic engagement, public policy, and strategic alliances. A reliable grantee has a clear mission, with a proven record of faithfulness to its philosophy. Further, the nonprofit’s past successes should clearly demonstrate a path to achieving the promised goals. Once the match has been established, the results of the collaboration are greater than the sum of its parts.

Shared Goals

The strategic planning cycle below is an example of what the foundation and nonprofit should have in common.

A shared mission and goal between the foundation and nonprofit strengthens the relationship. The strategic approach for both will revolve around the following basic questions: Where do we want to go? How do we get there? How do we measure success? How did we do? How can we improve? This is the key to each organization choosing the other.

The Path to a Successful Match

From the outset of the grant making process, the donor should have a clear idea of the overall results they want from a nonprofit. These should be clearly communicated to the grantee, and there must be flexibility to achieve those results. At the end of the day, a good marriage will depend on making the match and having the vision and passion to make the difference for the beneficiaries they both wish to serve.

Mathilda Harris

Over the past 18 years, she has written grants, conducted capital campaigns, developed strategic plans for grant procurement, and assisted individuals and institutions to write winning proposals for various donors.

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