Deepening Impact with Sustained Grants

In 2017, Dining For Women’s Grants and Partnerships Oversight Committee (GPOC) launched a “year of education” in order to ensure that we are informed about the current research and best practices in grantmaking and in promoting equality for women and girls.  In addition to the GPOC, we engaged a “member discussion forum” to share in the readings and discussions.  The research we reviewed highlighted several aspects of effective grantmaking, solutions to poverty and inequality that are critical to understanding how our grants can make the biggest and best impact.  The goal of this undertaking was to reaffirm the effectiveness of DFW’s Featured Grants while exploring new ideas and research for our Sustained Grants program.  The Grants Selection Committee is selecting a new slate of three-year Sustained Grantees for the beginning of 2019. 

Grantmakers for Effective Organizations, an organization of which DFW is a member, strongly encourages ‘smarter grantmaking’ by focusing on five main ideas: strengthening relationships, flexible and reliable funding, capacity building, learning and evaluation, and collaboration. Through our “year of education,” we found that DFW’s spectrum of grantmaking achieves many of these goals, but we also identified some opportunities for enhancement in our grantmaking over the coming years.

As a grantmaker, building strong, trusting relationships with our grantees is a priority.  DFW has increased grantee representation on our Board of Directors and on national leadership committees, incorporated grantees into member education through recorded monthly interviews, initiated site visits, and encouraged an open door relationship with our grantees when issues arise. We call upon our grantees when there are opportunities to speak to our members or with us in public presentations. Our “Knowledge Is Power” national conference is an excellent example of this: we will have more than 10 grantee representatives speaking or participating in panel discussions at the conference. This year, we also plan to obtain feedback from our grantees through a survey.   We see our grantees as knowledgeable partners and peers from whom we can learn.

To tackle deep-rooted problems in poverty alleviation and women’s empowerment, nonprofit organizations need the assurance of long-term and flexible funding. Research has shown that organizations that are successful in creating change have been able to make investments in capacity building. This can be defined as investing in the tools, skills, knowledge, and people of an organization – sometimes referred to as “overhead”. DFW is cognizant of the need for long-term funding and capacity building, and we are pleased that through our spectrum of grantmaking, from our Featured Grants to Sustained Grants to Partnerships, we are fulfilling these best practices in grantmaking.   DFW strives to use innovations in grantmaking to make effective change for women and girls.

In any grantmaking, the inherent power dynamic between funders and grantees must be recognized and, as an organization with a mission focused on equality, DFW is committed to creating more equitable relationships through collaboration.  DFW is fortunate that we can promote collaboration at the grassroots level with you, our members, as well as at the organizational level.  Our grantees’ relationships with our members has created incredible partnerships, donors, board members, volunteers, and travelers.  DFW collaborates during the entire life cycle of the grants process from the application to the final report allowing both sides to work together for a successful project.

DFW has chosen to put some of these lessons from the “year of education” into practice in the 2019-2021 Sustained Grants cycle. The new Sustained Grants policy that has been approved by the DFW Board will fund nine former Featured Grantees in good standing with grants totaling $75,000 over three years ($25,000 each year), which is an increase from the previous $60,000 over three years. A diligent team of the Grant Selection Committee is presently researching our pool of past grantees to make recommendations on who will be invited to submit a grant proposal. Just as in the past, Sustained Grants will be by invitation only, and will not be awarded during the summer months of June, July, and August.

In our new policy, the Sustained Grants will continue to support the type of direct services that we have done in the past, but they may also cover capacity building expenses for training personnel and obtaining tools, skills, and knowledge to make our grantee organizations more effective in the communities they serve. Sustained grants may also fund research and data collection that may further the mission of the organizations, or in-country fundraising expenses.  As always, projects that include collaborations and innovative solutions will be strongly encouraged.

We are excited that the “year of education” yielded affirming results, yet also pushed us forward in furthering the development of the Sustained Grants program.  In order to promote the collaboration and sustained relationship we have with these grantees, we aim to make the Sustained Grants a bigger part of our education and communications in 2019.  This program is just one example of DFW’s commitment to “smarter grantmaking” and we will continue to deepen our practice of smart grantmaking principles so that you can count on DFW as you always have.