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What are Funders Looking for?

Wednesday, April 27, 2016
Grantseeker Monthly
Grant Connect

When you know one funder, you only know one funder.

Though things can change quite drastically from one funder to the next, in a recent webinar we highlighted major themes that are becoming as common in grant applications as “Include your project budget”. To learn even more about what funders are expecting from grantseekers, and access a plethora of hands-on resources, read on and download a recording of this presentation, hosted by our very own Haley MacDonald, Grant Connect’s Manager of Research.


The concept of sustainability will mean different things to different funders. Some will only review the sustainability of your project, while others are interested in knowing about the sustainability of your entire organization. Either way, sustainability has emerged as a major theme to help reassure funders that the investment they’re making will carry on after the grant dollars have run out.

Why do funders care: In addition to the long term return sustainability thinking offers, having a good sustainability plan shows that you’ve got an exit strategy. It shows you’re thinking through the end of the grant as much as the beginning of it. This demonstrates you have a mature approach to planning and a long term vision for your impact, increasing your credibility. 

Why you should care: The same reasons funders care! Thinking through long term plans for your projects and funder partnerships – including what to do when they end – is better to do at the outset than when trouble arises. 

Evaluation and Impact

What will be different (in the world) as a result of your project or initiative?

Why funders care: As we’ve highlighted before, one of the biggest changes in philanthropy in recent years has been the increased focus on demonstrating impact. Funders want the greatest return on their donated dollar and communicating your impact is one of the ways in which funders can see how well (or not so well) their investment has fared.

When it comes to evaluation plans, these make for a shared understanding of outcomes between the funder and the fundee. Not only does this result in a greater sense of accountability for the receiving organization, it also provides greater comfort for the funder. 

Why you should care: You want to spend your resources where they make the most difference. When it comes to grantwriting, knowing your impact builds a strong case for why your project deserves funding, including why it aligns with what the grantmaker is trying to achieve. An evaluation plan also allows for a shared understanding of outcomes, and sets an expectation of improvement (setting the stage for learning throughout the grant, as opposed to getting everything right out of the gate). 


Grants don’t have to be just a one-to-one transactional relationship between a funder and a nonprofit. When multiple groups are working towards the same social goals, bringing these actors together – in some form – arguably achieves a more significant and lasting change.

Why funders care: Whether you’re working in tandem with a partner organization, or simply sharing your final learnings online, funders are increasingly interested in work that sits on a continuum of integration with others. When done well, collaboration leads to more efficient and effective results and allows for creative outcomes not achievable by a single organization. This also ensures that a grant is inclusive, representing diverse voices in the population.

Why you should care: Have you noticed a theme emerging? Funders usually care about these themes for the same reasons you do!

After all, the relationship between a funder and a fundee should be mutually beneficial!  

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Submitted by rob donelson on
These are excellent points. I think it is especially important to emphasize impact: what won't happen if this gift is not realized? The sustainability of the project is also important and the extent to which broad partnerships contribute to long term sustainability is a critical point to stress.

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