The Insider's Guide to Grantmaking: How Foundations Find, Fund, and Manage Effective Programs / Edition 1

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Unlike many formal professions, foundation grantmaking is a calling with no training programs and little definitive literature on the latest and best practices. Written for program officers and of considerable value to grantseekers, this volume is the first and only practical guide to making foundation grants and developing essential skills for effective and ethical grantmaking. Author Joel J. Orosz not only introduces readers to the history, structure, and function of foundations in society but also explores the complex role that program officers play in their day-to-day activities. He provides real-world advice on a myriad of tasks—from meeting with applicants and reviewing their proposals to assisting the funded project and managing foundation initiatives. He also asks critical questions about this growing and evolving profession, such as "What kind of person should become a grantmaker?" and "How does one avoid the seven temptations of philanthropy?" Throughout the book, Orosz informs his lively, thoughtful discussions with his own considerable experience in grantmaking. The Insider's Guide to Grantmaking allows readers to observe the world of foundations closely. It provides a useful overview for those new to the field, helps more experienced program officers to think more deeply about their work, and shares rich insights for the thousands of nonprofit leaders who pursue foundation grants.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Joel Orosz has given us a rare gift at a critical moment. His book is a wise guide not only for the new program officer but also for the experienced grantmaker." (Frances Hesselbein, chairman of the board of governors, The Peter F. Drucker Foundation for Nonprofit Management)

"A book on grantmaking with the name of Joel Orosz attached to it has instant credibility in the foundation world. Joel is an enormously creative grantmaker, exemplified by his leadership of one of the largest and most successful programs in the history of the Kellogg Foundation: the $63-million Michigan Community Foundations' Youth Project, which energized more than six thousand young people around the arts of fundraising and grantmaking. Every grantmaker can learn from his example." (Dorothy S. Ridings, president and CEO, Council on Foundations)

"Foundation program officers inhabit a mysterious world that grantseekers strain constantly to understand. Joel Orosz has finally given us a glimpse into a world that may not be as strange and distant as we thought." (Robert K. Goodwin, president and CEO, Points of Light Foundation)

"It is amazing that a book like this had not been written until now, for it has certainly been much needed. Grantmakers and grantseekers will now have a valuable resource—written by a seasoned, effective grantmaker—that will make their work easier and may well contribute to the improvement of relations between them." (Sara E. Melendez, president and CEO, INDEPENDENT SECTOR)

Written for program officers, this guide gives advice on making effective and ethical grants. Orosz (program director, W.K. Kellog Foundation) provides information on the history, structure, and function of foundations and explores the complex role that program officers play in their operations. He provides advice on a myriad of tasks, from meeting with applicants and reviewing proposals, to assisting the funded project and managing foundation initiatives. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780787952389
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 4/6/2000
  • Series: NonProfit and Public Management Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 588,362
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.88 (d)

Meet the Author

JOEL J. OROSZ earned his Ph.D. in American history from Case Western Reserve University. He is the senior program director in the Philanthropy and Volunteerism programming area of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in Battle Creek, Michigan.

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Read an Excerpt

Making Sense of the Grantmaking Universe

All grantmaking is done in a context-in fact, in many contexts simultaneously. There is the financial context (How large is the asset base?), the social context (Is society kindly disposed toward foundations and the types of social change they promote?), and the historical context (What has the foundation accomplished in the past?). The most influential of them all, however, is the institutional context of the foundation itself. All foundations have a dominant ideology, and given the large number of foundations in the United States, these ideologies span the spectrum from the loony left to the rabid right. The ideology, in turn, does much to shape the foundation's "theory of change": its beliefs about what type and intensity of intervention will best facilitate social movement toward the common good. The wide scope given to people to create private foundations in the United States virtually mandates that there will be nearly as many theories of change as there are foundations themselves.

Within this ideological welter, we can nonetheless discern that theories of change cluster around four main types. These types can be plotted as points along a single continuum. Because all the types begin with the letter P, this will hereafter be referred to as the 4-P continuum. As illustrated in Figure 1.1, the types are the passive, proactive, prescriptive, and peremptory. A brief description of each type will highlight the very real differences among them.

driven. It chooses its grantees, sometimes by means of an RFP but often simply by selecting them without public notice or competition. Peremptory foundations often operate their own programs and rarely if ever accept unsolicited proposals. Some peremptory foundations create reports on their grantmaking, but others do minimal reporting or none at all so as to avoid creating a demand they have no intention of fulfilling. The motto of the peremptory foundation might be "We fund the best we can imagine, and no others need apply."

Choosing a Grantmaking Style

A foundation's theory of change has a direct effect on its style of grantmaking. The passive foundation is highly likely to make a series of isolated, unconnected grants based solely on the proposals it receives during a given time period. The proactive foundation is likely to make clusters of individual grants tied together by a subject or a theme, while remaining very receptive to requests from outside. The prescriptive foundation is apt to carve out well-defined and strategically conceived initiatives, leaving relatively little receptivity to requests from outside. The peremptory foundation chooses grantees according to its own specific and strongly held visions, and it is not at all receptive to unsolicited requests.

Choosing a Mode of Operation

In addition to embracing a theory of change and a grantmaking style, the foundation must choose a mode of operation. There are essentially two ways that a foundation may conduct its business: as a grantmaking or an operating organization. The vast majority of U.S. foundations are grantmaking; that is, they make awards to mainly nonprofit organizations for charitable purposes. In order to do this, the foundation (if it is of a significant size) usually needs employees of its own, but because the foundation does not itself manage the projects that it supports financially, it need not employ a large staff. An operating foundation, in contrast, makes few or no awards to other organizations. Instead, it manages institutions, such as museums; or oversees activities, such as fellowship programs; or conducts research. Two of the largest operating foundations are the Howard Hughes Medical Research Institute and the

J. Paul Getty Foundation. Because they actually manage programs, operating foundations tend to have a relatively larger number of employees than their grantmaking counterparts.

fertilization, for the lessons learned from grantmaking should sharpen the foundation's management of its operated programs; the lessons learned from running programs should inform and improve the foundation's grantmaking. The great majority of U.S. foundations are nonetheless exclusively grantmaking entities, so this book will focus on the grantmaking mode of operation.

Choosing a Public Profile

It is essential that each foundation decide on the type of public profile that it wishes to present. This profile ranges from the spotlight-seeking to the camera-shy. Historically, for the most part foundations have been very little in the news. The work they do is complex and takes a long time to show results, and, in any case, much of their work is done through others. For example, the research supported by the Rockefeller Foundation to increase global crop yields-the "Green Revolution"-was extremely technical, took literally decades to fully mature, and was carried out largely by universities doing research, not by the foundation itself. It would be an enormous challenge to capture and hold the attention of the media on such arcane subjects for such a long span.

Whatever a foundation's theory of change, style of grantmaking, mode of operation, and level of public profile, as a program officer you must thoroughly understand them and be able to operate comfortably within them. On the one hand, if you are working at a foundation that is proactive and low profile and that engages in cluster grantmaking, it will not do to be a highly prescriptive, micromanaging, and personally flamboyant program officer. On the other hand, these qualities might be highly valued in an operating foundation that is peremptory and high profile.

Setting Grantmaking Priorities

"No people," observed Mandell Creighton, "do so much harm as those who go about doing good." While Mr. Creighton was undoubtedly exaggerating in order to make a point (Joe Stalin, for example, probably did more harm than even the most avid do-gooder), there is more than a little truth to this remark. Foundations that have not bothered to set goals for their funding-or those that have, but have decided not to share them with the grantseeking public-comprise an excellent example of Mr. Creighton's point. Foundations can waste buckets of their own money-and hours of grantseeker time-if they have not firmly set their priorities for social change and clearly communicated these priorities to the public.

justification that they are not usually asked their opinions before programs are crafted to help them. Scholars point out, with considerable justification, that priorities and programs devised by foundations without outside input invariably disappoint and nearly always fail. Effective grantmaking depends on foundations constructing their agenda in consultation with others. Fortunately, there are many ways to do so.

The Five Steps in Setting Priorities


Foundations are notoriously difficult to pigeonhole by means of generalizations. They are liberal and conservative, sluggish and hyperkinetic, grantmaking and operating, reclusive and brash. In this variegated diversity, they very much resemble the American people whence they sprang.

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Table of Contents

Making Sense of the Grantmaking Universe.

Grantmaking: The Human Factor.

Building Relationships with Applicants.

Reviewing Proposals.

Declining Proposals.

Responding to Proposals.

Site Visits.

Writing the Funding Document.

Presenting the Funding Document.

Managing the Project.

Closing the Project.

Leveraging Impact.

Influencing Policy.

Intiative-Based Grantmaking.

The Ethics of Grantmaking.

Epilogue: The Future of Formal Philanthropy.

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