Tools aim to boost grantmaking

By Todd Cohen

Effective grantmaking is the focus of a handful of new publishing ventures.

The Ford Foundation, for example, has launched GrantCraft, a set of tools to help grantmakers do a better job. The initiative will produce 20 guides – seven already are in production – that visitors to can download for free.

The first guide, for example, examines how grantmakers can use competitions and requests for proposals as a grantmaking strategy. Other topics will help grantmakers start a foundation from scratch, or work with an existing grants program.

The site also includes 11 videos of 20 minutes each featuring grantmakers and grantees talking about how they work with one another and sustain their work over time.

The initiative aims to make widely available materials that Ford has produced for about 10 years for the 120 grantmakers it employs on its staff, says Jan Jaffe, senior director at Ford and project leader for GrantCraft.

While the materials are based in part on Ford’s own grantmaking, she said, GrantCraft has developed them by talking to other foundations about their own experiences.

“There isn’t a lot of recorded material in the voices of grantmakers about how they work, and about the tools and skills they use,” she says.

Grantmakers typically communicate with other grantmakers to talk about issues in their particular fields of interest, she said, but not about the job of grantmaking.

She says Ford is talking about possible collaboration and sharing of information with other foundations that also are preparing materials about grantmaking to meet growing demand.

Effective philanthropy, for example, also is the focus of a new publishing project funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in Princeton, N.J., Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City, Mo., John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in Miami, and David and Lucile Packard Foundation in Los Altos, Calif.

The project will publish 12 monographs over a year, says Patricia Patrizi, a consultant in Wyncote, Pa., near Philadelphia, who is directing the project.

“We’re trying to go deeply into a range of issues,” she says, focusing both on “ideas in good currency,” such as strategic philanthropy, and also on “specific technologies or interventions,” such as community-building and the use of media to create to social change.

And the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation in St. Paul, Minn., plans to publish a series of grantmaker guides on topics such as “capacity-building,” or strengthening the internal operations of nonprofits, says Carol Lukas, the foundation’s director of national services.

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