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As the holidays approach, many private foundations like to support grassroots organizations to make an impact locally and meet the immediate needs of a community. These organizations are often smaller and can have very different operations than large institutions, so it’s important for foundations to set their expectations accordingly. In this issue of our Adapting Your Grant Approach Series, our Philanthropic Advisory Services experts share some tips on the best ways to approach funding a grassroots organization.

Right-Size Your Grant Application
Staff at small nonprofits wear many hats, so helping them maximize efficiency can be a welcome approach. Consider right-sizing your grant application requirements to omit the need for a cover letter and to ask only short-answer questions vs. long narratives. Also, request only the information that would help you decide about a grant or meet compliance requirements. It would also help to accept relevant “duplicate” proposals that the grantees submitted to other funding organizations. Doing so will save them time by enabling them to repurpose their work. Lastly, remember that you can usually find substantial information on the grantees’ websites that you would then not need to request on your application.

Forgo Personalized Attention
Especially during busy times like the winter holidays, grassroots organizations must focus on accomplishing the work that their funders are supporting. While they are grateful to receive support, sending individual acknowledgements of gifts or invitations to site visits may strain their limited time and resources. You can help ease their workload by letting them know you don’t need special thanks. They will appreciate it!

Make General Operating Grants
Grants can be made as general operating support or for a specific purpose. General operating support is particularly treasured by nonprofits of all sizes, including grassroots organizations, because it can be used as they wish, either to pay basic expenses that help keep the lights on, launch a new program, or address new or unexpected needs such as a sudden call for emergency aid.

While general operating grants might not seem as meaningful as funding a specific charitable initiative, consider making them—especially to grassroots organizations that are typically short-staffed with limited resources. You would be helping them ease their administrative burdens and affording them more time to focus their fundraising on programming, ultimately enabling them to make a greater philanthropic impact.

Supporting grassroots organizations can be incredibly rewarding, particularly if your foundation wants to directly effect change on a local level. By adapting your funding approach to meet their specific needs and capabilities, you’ll be sure to enjoy the process and outcome.

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