What We Do and Why (AND HOW!): Grant Making

TPC has distributed over $1,000,000 in grants to 43 organizations and is now beginning its sixth grant cycle. With thousands of worthy greater Boston organizations seeking your support, it can be difficult to learn about and decide which organizations will wisely use your donations of time, money, and/or talents. While most of us have a deep understanding of an organization or two, have you ever wondered about non-profits that address the pressing problems of homelessness, food insecurity, domestic violence, educational support, women’s health, or legal services for immigrants and low wage workers? If you want to learn how to identify healthy organizations that are successfully tackling such pressing issues, join a TPC grant team. Members, you should have received an email to sign-up this week. Any questions, email connect@thephilanthropyconnection.org.

Educating our members to become effective, educated philanthropists is integral to TPC’s mission – and challenging. In the city of Boston alone, over 1,000 non-profits meet our eligibility criteria. Through our Philanthropy Dialogues and grantee interviews, we offer members in-depth exposure to individual grantees, and what they do and why. Participating in TPC’s grant cycle is another opportunity for understanding the local non-profit landscape. In each new grant cycle, we invite over 400 of these organizations to submit a Letter of Intent (LOI) application; in return, we receive approximately 150 of these preliminary applications. And then TPC members get to work!

Members volunteer to serve on grant teams that each consist of eight to nine women; they work together throughout the grant cycle to decide which applicants move from LOI applications to full proposals, then to site visits, and ultimately to TPC’s ballot. Each team is assigned a Captain, Deputy, and Finance Lead who help to lead the team in two or three in-person team meetings held over the months leading up to May’s all-member vote. At that time, each TPC member receives a one-page synopsis about each finalist that has been prepared by respective grant teams and edited for consistency among all finalists. Members then vote for which organizations should receive grants, votes are tabulated, and finalists with the most votes become new grantees.

 

The Basics of Being on a Grant Team

First, all members are welcome to join a grant team. Second, anyone can participate in a leadership role on a team. TPC provides training for Captains and Deputies about how to lead a team, review grant applications, and facilitate meetings. We also provide training to Finance Leads, who then conduct a thorough financial evaluation to ensure that all organizations under consideration are fiscally sound and sustainable.

In November, grant teams are formed based as much as possible on preferences submitted by each member (e.g., location, times to meet). In January, each team reviews 8 to 10 LOI applications and decides which organizations will be asked to submit a full proposal. In March, teams meet again to review full proposals, and some teams meet a third time to decide which organizations will be scheduled for a site visit. After site visits and full financial reviews are completed, teams recommend finalists for the ballot, which is provided by email to all members who have roughly one month to vote.

To give you a rough idea of the scale of this work, last year we had 148 eligible LOI applications, 68 full proposals, 34 site visits, and 23 finalists, ultimately yielding 10 new grantees. Over 125 women participated on grant teams. One of those women summed up her experience this way, “I really enjoyed the exposure to the diversity of non-profits serving people in need in our area. The collaborative nature of the team brought together women with many different skill sets and perspectives. I learned so much and now look at non-profits in a whole new light.”

If you would like to meet interesting women, learn about fantastic organizations, and maybe even learn how to read non-profit financial statements with ease, consider joining a grant team. We hope to have teams in place by November 26.