How Your Institution Shapes Decision Giving

“How much should I educate grantseekers about my foundation’s interests and priorities?”

  • “I just do not have time to meet everyone who applies for a grant,” said one somewhat frustrated grantmaker. “When I first became a grantmaker, I thought I should meet with everyone requesting a meeting. That’s what I had been doing for all of my professional life. I now say 'No'." Foundation managers might consider other techniques — pre-application conferences, “meet the foundation” sessions, on-line “office hours,” more explicit guidelines, or the use of letters of inquiry — to manage the demands of the educational process when grantmakers cannot handle all of them.

“What help or feedback do I owe rejected applicants, and can I afford to give it?”

  • Some foundations, however, view the helpful turn-down process as an obligation. They encourage and support it because they feel that pointing out weaknesses and suggesting sources of help is a form of capacity-building that will strengthen the field. Even at foundations that don’t actively promote this norm, you can anticipate that this is part of the job, and be prepared by knowing who else funds in your field or where people can research other funders. Foundations that don’t consider giving a detailed explanation to rejected grantseekers might consider another benefit: the more often a foundation gives a clear rationale to grant seekers, the better the foundation’s rationale will be understood in the community. As one grantseeker pointed out, “When they clearly explain their ideas for rejecting someone, they’re putting their ideas in circulation. Grantees talk to other grantees. We’ll discuss your goals and rationales.”

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 Saying Yes/Saying No to Applicants.