Measuring Grantmaking Excellence

philanthropyWith this daunting economic crisis and an ever-growing desire within the foundation world to increase foundation impact, I’m seeing more and more articles about improving the effectiveness of philanthropic dollars.  At the Kapor Foundation, positive impact towards social change is at the heart of our discussions about our work, and we’re working really hard right now to make sure our grantmaking and other strategies make a difference in our communities.

The Spring 2009 issue of The Nonprofit Quarterly has an article entitled, Measuring Grantmaking Excellence: How Good Are Your Foundation Donors? The article mentioned The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy‘s (NCRP) report, Criteria for Philanthropy at Its Best, which gives four criteria for excellent grantmaking.  I’ve listed those four criteria below and will be delving into the NCRP report later to find out more about the organization’s methodology for coming up with these criteria since foundations come in all shapes and sizes.

  • Values: engages all communities; provides at least 50% of grant dollars to marginalized groups; gives at least 25% of grant dollars to advocacy, organizing, and civic engagement,
  • Effectiveness: invests in the health, growth, and effectiveness of nonprofit partners; provides at least 50% of grant dollars as general operating support and as multi-year grants; and has application and reporting requirements commensurate with grant size,
  • Ethics: demonstrates accountability and transparency to constituents; has an engaged, volunteer board of at least 5 people from diverse perspectives; has ethical policies and practices; discloses information freely,
  • Commitment: spends most of its assets toward its mission; pays out at least 6% of assets in grants per year; invests at least 25% of assets to support its mission.

It’s nice to read an article that’s written from the nonprofit perspective as opposed to the funder perspective. It challenges me to remember to ask grantee organizations what their most pressing needs are as opposed to foundations placing funder goals at the center of discussions around grantmaking.  I see it as a partnership between a funder and grantee to marry their goals and resources in order to achieve a mutual benefit, hopefully with larger social change at the core.

I’m happy to work for an organization that has a mission to focus on low-income communities and communities of color, that is always looking for new ways to help support the nonprofits that we partner with, and challenges itself and others to be less risk-averse and to think more strategically and innovatively.  Have a great weekend, and if you see any other good articles on this topic, let me know!

(Photo from:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *