Program: Grantmaking, Public Policy Engagement and Other Programs

Options highlighted in bold are required by law. All other options are voluntary practices that individual organizations can choose to implement.


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This is part of "Principles for Grantmakers & Practice Options for Philanthropic Organizations."

View the complete table of contents or download the PDF.

This section focuses on managing the grants awarding process "” from handling grant applications to making final grant decisions. Many grantmakers accept unsolicited grant applications or are proactive grantmakers that use a request for proposal process (RFP), and may find many of these Practice Options useful in their grant review and decision-making processes. Other foundations and corporate giving programs make grants to pre-selected charities or are proactive grantmakers that do not accept proposals. These grantmakers may also find a number of the following Practice Options relevant to their work in assisting their board decision-making.

Grant Guidelines and Process for Application

If we accept unsolicited grant proposals or issue a request for proposal process:

  1. We have a grantmaking policy or guidelines that clearly define the main areas in which we will make grants. We clarify those areas that we specifically exclude from consideration.
  2. We communicate with grant applicants about the processes, forms of application and procedures to follow in submitting a grant proposal.
  3. We communicate respectfully with grant applicants and, whenever feasible, communicate on receipt of and in delivering the outcome of their proposals.
  4. We work actively to improve our cultural awareness and respect for differences, and employ appropriate cultural sensitivity in our communications.
  5. We explain to applicants when and how their proposals will be reviewed, their organizational contacts within our philanthropic organization, and when they can expect to be informed of a decision.
  6. If we routinely contact others for pertinent information about an applicant's programs or proposal as a part of the review process, our guidelines say so.
  7. We consider a range of financial support options that may include general operating, project, capital, research, scholarship, endowment, multi-year and challenge grants, and funds to respond to emergency or other anticipated needs.
  8. We require and review reporting from grantees sufficient to confirm that a grant has been properly received and spent.
  9. We clearly explain grant payment procedures and establish reasonable grant reporting requirements, how we will monitor the grant and mutual expectations.
  10. We take steps to ensure confidentiality for grant applicants and recipients involved in our evaluation process, and use discretion in both seeking and responding to requests for information about applicants or grantees.
  11. We actively involve the communities and constituencies we serve in shaping our grantmaking.
  12. If we make site visits: When possible, we conduct site visits and communicate with grant applicants clear expectations of the nature and purpose of the site visit and their role in the visit.

Due Diligence

  1. We engage in proper due diligence to ensure that all grants we make are used to further our organization's tax-exempt purposes.
  2. For any grants we make to organizations that are not U.S. charities, including individuals, other private foundations and charities outside the U.S., we take the appropriate legal steps to ensure that our funds are granted in compliance with U.S. law.

Public Policy Engagement

This section focuses on engagement in the public policy process, including funding and/or participating in lobbying and advocacy activities.

Funding Advocacy and Lobbying

  1. We adhere to all state and federal laws and restrictions related to participating in grassroots lobbying and engaging in political campaigns.
  2. We recognize that private foundations are able to participate in public policy engagement and that the following are not excluded in federal laws on grassroots lobbying:
  • Funding or presenting nonpartisan analysis, study or research that was made widely available.
  • Engaging in examinations and discussions of broad social, economic and similar problems not connected to specific legislative proposals.
  • Providing testimony or other technical assistance to governmental body or committee, pursuant to a written request from the governmental body or committee.
  • Addressing proposed legislation that would affect the existence of our philanthropic organization, its powers and duties, its tax-exempt status or the deductibility of contributions to the organization.
  • Funding a public charity's membership communications that contain legislative information but no legislative call to action (if the charity elected to be governed by IRC Section 501(h)).
  • Presenting information to a legislative body about a program that is, or may be, funded by both the philanthropic organization and the government.

Participating in Public Policy

  1. We advocate publicly for issues that relate to our mission and values, or to support such efforts, or advocate for the interests of the charitable sector, within the limits of the law.
  2. If we are a public foundation and not regulated by private foundation law: We are able to participate in all activities that private foundations may engage in, but we may also be actively engaged in proposed legislation or other public policies affecting the communities and constituencies we serve through our grantmaking or other programs, within the limits of the law.

Other Programs

  1. We convene community leaders, nonprofits, government and other funders doing similar work to learn from each other and identify promising solutions or practices.
  2. We provide technical assistance to grantees and other charitable nonprofits, taking care to balance potential ethical dilemmas.
  3. We acknowledge and work with grant applicants to minimize the effects of the imbalance of power in grantee/grantor relationships.
  4. We seek candid feedback on our organization's performance from current and former grantees and denied applicants.
  5. We respond to and act promptly on complaints.
  6. We use program and grant evaluation information to improve community outcomes.
  7. We share successes, failures and lessons learned internally and externally, as appropriate.