History of Grants while Spending Down

Navigate through this interactive timeline of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies (ACBP) grants from 1986-2012, which is a great example of how funders can tell their own stories.

View the timeline and full ACBP grants directory»

To hear voices from ACBP’s spend down, follow our ongoing blog series. How do you tell your foundation’s giving story? Post examples in the comments!

New to the field? This one’s for you.

Folks who are new to the field often request a glossary of terms just to make sure they know the basics. Our sister site GrantSpace (geared more towards nonprofits, while GrantCraft speaks more directly to funders) has shared the below list that defines the most commonly used terms in Foundation Center materials.

501(c)(3) The section of the tax code that defines nonprofit, charitable, tax-exempt organizations. 501(c)(3) organizations are further defined as public charities, private operating foundations, and private non-operating foundations. See also: operating foundationprivate foundationpublic charity.

Annual report A voluntary report issued by a foundation or corporation that provides financial data and descriptions of its grantmaking activities. Annual reports vary in format from simple typewritten documents listing the year’s grants to detailed publications that provide substantial information about the grantmaker’s grantmaking programs.

Assets The amount of capital or principal — money, stocks, bonds, real estate, or other resources — controlled by a foundation or corporate giving program. Generally, assets are invested and the resulting income is used to make grants.

Beneficiary In philanthropic terms, the donee or grantee receiving funds from a foundation or corporate giving program is the beneficiary, although society may benefit as well.

Capital support Funds provided for endowment purposes, buildings, construction, or equipment.

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Leadership and the Lessons of Change

Grant Coates HeadshotBy Grant Coates
Fort Worth, TX

“It is not necessary to change.  Survival is not mandatory.”  ~W. Edwards Deming

I love this quote, because it reflects the necessity of change to stay relevant, but also our inherent reluctance to take that step forward.  At The Miles Foundation this past year, we’ve certainly pushed ourselves to implement changes we believe will help propel us forward and build stronger partnerships – even when it has felt a little uncomfortable.

The great part of change, though, is what you learn through the process of transformation. With our first-ever Annual Report, a fresh website and new grantee stories published (along with an inaugural social media presence), our intentional focus on transparency and connectivity has been an exciting and informative journey.

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[WEBINAR RECORDING] Coffee and Conversation with Mary Gregory

We had over 100 people register for our free coffee and conversation webinar about transparency featuring Mary Gregory on March 20. The recording is available here in full for those who were unable to attend. Cosponsored by Northern California Grantmakers, we provided an overview of our new GrantCraft resource Opening Up: Demystifying Funder Transparency with our Glasspockets colleague and then dove into the topic of building stronger grantee relationships through transparency with our guest, Mary Gregory. We received several great questions from our audience and will continue this webinar series on transparency by exploring other chapters in the guide with other guest funders. To make sure you hear about the next webinar, subscribe to this blog or to our eblasts, and follow us on Twitter. And, if you have a story about transparency from your foundation that you’d like to share, please email us.

Lessons From a Grantee Capacity Building Project

13b31afBy Eleanor A. Smith
San Francisco, CA

Below are key lessons from theory of change work I led recently as a consultant to early childhood grantees of San Francisco’s Bella Vista Foundation (BVF). A long-time strategy and evaluation consultant to foundations and nonprofits, I offered a workshop introducing theory of change to grantees in the foundation’s Infants & Families Connecting (IFC) program. After the training, BVF Executive Director Mary Gregory invited groups to apply for “mini-grants,” to cover a few hours of my time to assist them in growing their capacity by developing their own theory of change.

BVF’s leaders’ long-term goal for the mini-grants technical assistance project was to increase the foundation’s ability, down the road, to evaluate the social impact of its IFC grantmaking. “As we developed our theory of change,” Mary said, “it became clear that an early step would be to increase our grantees’ ability to better assess their own progress and be able to improve their programs.” Such increased grantee evaluation and learning capacity would eventually allow BVF to connect the dots between the foundation’s own theory of change and the IFC grantees’ family and child outcomes.

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Building transparency into the operational structure of a new fund

Sophie Pritchard

By Sophie Pritchard
London, United Kingdom

It’s nearly two years since the inception of Edge Fund. From the beginning, we had aims to be democratic, accessible, and accountable to the groups and communities our decisions affect whilst also providing much needed funding to grassroots efforts. Transparency has been an important part of what we do and has led to an approach that involves the communities and groups we aim to help as decision-makers, and brings them together to support and learn from each other.

As a group of people concerned about social justice, it was not sufficient only to focus on inequality of wealth, but also to overcome issues of power. Therefore, the process of setting up our fund was a collective process involving around fifty people from different communities and groups across the UK. We wanted to get funding to groups that other funders considered to be too radical, and to groups led by and for communities facing injustice and discrimination who often face many barriers to funding.

Gaining trust

One of our biggest challenges is gaining the trust of communities who have long been excluded and minoritised by the mainstream. Isis Amlak, of grantee group One Voice Community Collective and a member of Edge Fund, explained the situation with one community:  ”Historically when ‘Black’ (in a political sense, to include all communities facing discrimination based on their race) groups have taken funding, they have found themselves compromised and, restricted, and far too many became reliant to the detriment of creativity, self-reliance, and self-sustainability. When the funding stopped, they stopped. There is also a great deal of suspicion, rightly so, about sources of funding; who are the benefactors/philanthropists behind the scenes? What is the real agenda?” The same issues apply to many other communities, such as low income communities and disabled people, who often find that both funders and charities impose their own solutions on to them with little consultation let alone actually involving them in the decision-making process.

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Foundation Center sessions at the Grants Managers Network conference Mon-Wed

Stop by our booth or one of our sessions, including one directly from GrantCraft!

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Free Transparency Webinar

Join us for a free webinar complementing our new guide, Opening Up: Demystifying Funder Transparency on Thursday, March 20th 2:00-3:00pm EST featuring:

  • Mary Gregory, Vice President, Pacific Foundation Services
  • Jen Bokoff, Director, GrantCraft
  • Janet Camarena, Director, Foundation Center-San Francisco & Manager, Glasspockets

You bring the coffee, GrantCraft & Glasspockets bring the conversation!

Grantees, funding partners, the public, and philanthropy professionals themselves all benefit when foundations make their work and their knowledge broadly accessible.  However, it can be challenging to know where and how to begin with improving and enhancing your foundation’s transparency practices, as well as to determine what level of transparency is appropriate for family foundations or those with limited staff capacity.

This free webinar will provide highlights from our new guide, and the opportunity to learn from Mary Gregory, Vice President of Pacific Foundation Services, which provides philanthropic support to 20 family foundations and is currently active in promoting the benefits of increased foundation transparency to its clients.  Mary will also draw from the case study shared in the guide and her experience as executive director of the Bella Vista Foundation (BVF) about why and how BVF has approached transparency and what advice Mary has for other family foundations grappling with how to best share the work of a foundation with its grantees and other stakeholders, as well as overcoming concerns about perceived risks associated with greater transparency.

Details for logging on to the webinar will be emailed prior to the event.

Click here to register now!

Note: the webinar will be recorded and available on the GrantCraft website for later viewing. But, attend to participate in the live Q&A and reflect with other participants in real time!

Tips for “Networking” at a Conference

by Jen Bokoff

I’m asked all the time how I approach networking at conferences. To be completely honest, “networking” can feel like a dirty word to me because it connotes the transactional business card swap where success is defined by the number of cards in your conference tote bag. Instead, I like to label networking done correctly as “connecting,” where success is defined by the quality of interactions and the potential for sincere follow up.

With that disclaimer, here are some pointers I can offer:

  • Do your research beforehand. If attendee lists (either specific names or organizations) are available, make sure you know background for ‘important’ people in the room, and ask colleagues/netsuite about existing relationships.
  • Don’t spew information. Instead, ask people questions about themselves and their work.
  • Don’t make people feel like you’re trying to sell them something. Instead, listen to what’s on their mind and respond to that – work related or not.
  • The best conversations are those that aren’t about work at all. Get to know people to really build a relationship. That often means showing a little of your personality. You can maintain privacy, but think about a few topics you could be comfortable talking about outside of work and don’t be afraid to do that.
  • Be careful what you say about other people – you never know who knows who.
  • The best networking often happens during meals and evening activities, so pace your energy levels to make those times count.
  • Never feel stuck or put all of your eggs in one conversation basket; it’s understood that attendees at conferences are there to talk with many people, so it’s always ok to politely excuse yourself. Thank people for their time chatting and end on a good note. And, if you intend to connect again in the future, share that intention; if you don’t, don’t falsely say you’d like to.
  • Write something to jog your memory on the back of people’s business cards as is helpful, and transfer that information into your address book system as a note along with the contact information.
  • Make note of what article or website(s) would be helpful to send to someone in follow up to your conversation, and then follow up! Within a week is usually a good timeline, but up to two is fine.

What tips do you have to add?

New Chapter for GrantCraft

Over the last several years, GrantCraft has seen exciting changes and growth. We’ve expanded our audience to more than 60,000 visitors from 140 countries annually, translated select content into ten languages, developed infographics to spark colorful and productive conversations, increased our collection of guides, featured your perspectives in guest blog posts sourced from around the world, and shared your voices through topical podcasts.

Now, GrantCraft is embarking on a new chapter. After three years of being a collaborative project of the Foundation Center in New York and the European Foundation Centre in Brussels, GrantCraft will continue to grow as a global resource managed solely by the Foundation Center beginning April 1. The European Foundation Centre has decided to focus their resources on face-to-face learning programs specifically targeted to their members, and we mutually agreed that GrantCraft integrates seamlessly into the Foundation Center’s efforts to empower donors with knowledge tools.

The collaboration has been incredibly valuable for the development of GrantCraft’s content and audience. Together, we were able to significantly grow readership and global engagement around our resources, and discover how topics in philanthropy are discussed and framed differently in various contexts. Additionally, we built on the strong foundation laid by the Ford Foundation to add new resources in diverse formats. More broadly, working together allowed us to learn about the strengths, challenges, and best practices of a transatlantic partnership. For instance, we have been able to reflect on why business models matter and how positive relationships are at the core of every strong collaboration. In the vein of transparency, we hope you will take five minutes to read more in a recent article in Alliance Magazine, “Lessons from a transatlantic partnership,” co-authored by the Foundation Center’s president Brad Smith and the European Foundation Centre’s president Gerry Salole. In the article, Brad and Gerry take an honest look at our cross-continental collaboration and share important perspective on GrantCraft’s past, present, and future.

Rosien Herweijer, the director of GrantCraft at the European Foundation Centre, has added tremendously to GrantCraft’s legacy and will be very much missed. The Foundation Center and the European Foundation Centre will continue to collaborate on other projects and be mutually supportive on publicly-available initiatives, including GrantCraft.

We’re excited for what lies ahead. Our GrantCraft community is an incredible source of wisdom and learning, and a new web site set for release later this year will allow you to engage more dynamically with our free resources and each other. We will also continue to develop more original content, feature more funder voices from around the world,  integrate other Foundation Center publications and tools, and curate relevant content from other philanthropy organizations. Jen Bokoff will continue as the director of GrantCraft at the Foundation Center as part of the Strategic Philanthropy team led by Lisa Philp. Please contact Jen with any questions at jen@foundationcenter.org.

There are many exciting projects in the pipeline for GrantCraft, so stay tuned in the coming months for ways to continue accessing resources for free and to contribute to our growing database of content.