In small family foundations, the prevalent question is “how can we do best with our investment?”. Similarly to the question about fund investments in stock and other assets. However, the big question of how to impact the most with the funds, may be answered quite decently when taking several aspects into account:
(1) applicant information: what information is collected from applicant, and how much information is usable. In other words, the secret of data collection in the first stage is the lean nature of the collected data. Ensure the information requested is highly relevant for the decision making process.
(2) clear guidelines: when the foundation is getting too many irrelevant applications and letters, this raises the question of clarity and accuracy of guidelines for applications. Hence, ensure the application guidelines are clear, presented and accessible on the website, and state shortly and clearly who are the typical applicants to be considered. Also, provide a clear timeline for application rounds and decision announcements.
(3) decent evaluation: the most important, yet frequently neglected aspect, is evaluation and understanding of the contribution impact. It is easy to donate for a cause close to one’s heart. However, grant making is not only about giving, but also about ensuring the investment is impactful and fruitful. By this, the foundation needs to create simple rubrics or other evaluation tools to allow continuous and clear reporting (quarterly and annually). The evaluation tool should also provide the opportunity to compare between funded projects, to assist in decision making for future donations. Those evaluation tools do not have to be too sophisticated, they can be smart enough to compare and extract information based on the criteria on the guidelines, and most importantly – measure and evaluate the match and achievement of the foundation’s vision.
(4) organized decision making: when all the above are accomplished, the foundation’s management team and board are able to make decisions quite easily and effectively. Whether it is about deciding who are to be included in the next round of applicants (i.e. section 1 and 2 – guidelines and applicant information) or what was the impact of the invested funds over the year, and how the projects are doing in comparison (section 3). The management team arranges all the information for the board, and the board makes efficient, wise, evidence-based decisions to highly impact and use the funds in the most significant way to achieve the foundation’s vision.
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