Assembling the Basic Ingredients

A good exit begins with good ingredients. Experienced exiters recommend getting these items in place from the start, bearing them in mind over the life of the grant, and revisiting them as the exit nears.

  • Clear goals and objectives. A grant, program, or long-term investment usually begins with goals and objectives, perhaps even formal benchmarks. There may be a logic model or a theory of change. Those objectives may be altered, overshadowed by other accomplishments, or overtaken by events — but defining them at the outset and checking on them over time is a good exercise, grantmakers said. "Clarify expectations,” said a grantmaker at another foundation, “then clarify expectations again. Six months later, have the conversation again.”

  • The duration of the grant and the total investment. Some foundations make a policy of providing funding “for as long as it takes,” while others know from the start that they intend to stay with a project or field for a particular number of years. In either case, thinking about the investment over the full (or likely) duration can be helpful.

  • The field, and how the grantee fits in. A foundation’s concern for a particular field may affect its decision making about when and how to begin and end a relationship with a grantee. As a grantmaker at a foundation with a strong interest in public health noted, “through the course of working with a grantee, sometimes starting with a specific project, you may realize that this is a key organization for this particular field and you want to invest in its future wellbeing.”

  • The “ecology of funding.” Experienced grantmakers know who else is funding in the field and how their foundations tend to work. They keep a mental list of likely funding partners and cultivate relationships with colleagues who share their interests. It makes sense, one grant maker reasoned, to think about “who might ‘take out’ your grant with additional money down the road.” More generally, she argued, grantmakers “have got to have relationships with other funders. You need to understand that you are a 'shadow' development officer, in a way.”

Takeaways are critical, bite-sized resources either excerpted from our guides or written by Candid Learning for Funders using the guide's research data or themes post-publication. Attribution is given if the takeaway is a quotation.

This takeaway was derived from The Effective Exit.