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Resolve to Build Bridges in Your Grantmaking

It’s a New Year with new beginnings. While any time of the year can be the right time to make a change or reimagine your work, the New Year brings a sense of renewal and promise. In this spirit, we propose making this the year you resolve to build bridges, not barriers, for grantees and applicants. Doing so will help refresh your grantmaking and relationships with grantees, opening a whole world of possibilities. 

At TCC Group, we believe different perspectives, flexibility, learning and adaptiveness are key values that can lead to more focused, effective and impactful grantmaking.  We know that funders can wield great power in the grantor/grantee relationship, and we often work with clients to develop goals and strategies that prioritize responsive, inclusive and dynamic grantmaking initiatives.  We have helped funders incorporate the tenets of trust-based philanthropy into their operations and are skilled at creating collaborative submission, tracking and reporting systems, and shared learning environments for grantmaking initiatives. 

In 2024, resolve to serve as a bridge – not a gatekeeper – to resources, knowledge, and information. Serving as a bridge means meeting nonprofits where they are, listening respectfully, and decreasing the barriers to funding wherever possible. What does this mean in practice?  Below are some of our key learnings; while the list is not extensive, these offerings provide immediate opportunities to partner with funders differently with nonprofits.  

1. Increase Transparency

Funders can narrow the power gap and build relationships with grantseekers and grantees by being accessible and transparent in their grantmaking goals, strategies and operations.  

  • During the application process, make yourself available to answer questions and provide information on grants strategies, desired outcomes, and funding criteria.   
  • Host information sessions and “office hours” during the application process.   
  • Create opportunities to get feedback on your application process – how long did it take, what were the stumbling blocks, what would make the process easier?   
  • Host design sessions to allow for potential grantees to connect with peer organizations to discuss program strategies and pathways for collaboration, if appropriate.  

You can also deepen the relationship once the grant is made, taking each opportunity to listen to grantees and learn more about the context in which they do their work. This might mean attending a community event, or having regular phone calls and check-ins to talk about what is working and how the foundation can be helpful beyond the grant. Foundations can also use their access to social capital and networks to help grantees connect with other funders. 

2. Lighten the Load

Decreasing the burden on grantees shows respect for the time and talent of nonprofit professionals. Cumbersome processes reinforce the power dynamic between the grantmaking institutions and applicants by increasing the number of “hoops” an applicant must jump through. These ultimately become barriers to a meaningful and productive partnership when the opposite is desired – funders and organizations are looking to create trusting, respectful and reciprocal relationships.  

How You Can Reflect on Your Foundation’s Processes 
  • Does your foundation require grantees to create documents exclusive to you?
    • This means that nonprofit staff spend valuable time and resources recreating documents for each funding application.
  • Can your staff use existing documentation instead, so that grantees use their precious time to offer services or do the work on the ground?
    • This might mean devoting resources to staff training, for example, so that relevant staff are comfortable reading a 990 and financial statements. These are publicly available documents that contain a wealth of information often requested in specialized forms by funders.
  • Does your foundation offer materials only in English?
    • Consider focusing on language access by translating key materials into languages most frequently used by the communities with which you seek to partner.
  • Are you working with repeat grantees?
    • Streamline the process by asking only for an annual report, financial statements and any updates on program changes.
  • Have you heard that your foundation’s process takes a long time or has a lot of materials to sift through?
    • Simplify the application process by using short applications, letters of intent, or interviews instead of written documents. 

Foundations can commit to regularly auditing their grant processes for steps that may pose   challenges or barriers for grantees and grant applicants.  If you’ve noticed that the Foundation spends significant time or effort tracking down responses to a certain form, question, or step in the process, that is a clear indicator that partners are finding that stage challenging or confusing. Making adjustments to these steps in the process helps both the Foundation and its grantees. 

In practical terms, here is an easy way to apply this recommendation.   


The Foundation used a four-type application process that included: 

1- proposal,

2- grant agreement letter,

3- report from grantees’ previous grant, and

4- payment.

Funds could not be released until grantee reports were submitted. The burden of tracking who had submitted reports and making sure organizations were paid promptly fell to the Foundation. Often grantees assumed that they should report a year after receiving the previous grant, which pushed their receipt of funds slightly back each year. TCC Group overcame these challenges by recommending that the proposal template be amended to include a report on the previous year’s activities, eliminating the need for multiple stages of outreach. That simple change resulted in less hours of work for the Foundation and a smoother and clearer (and much appreciated) process for grantees. 

For foundations interested in reaching a broader network of and/or grassroots organizations, lightening the load is an approach that has the added benefit of expanding access and providing increased opportunities for more organizations to participate in the grantmaking process. By eliminating or reducing potential barriers – that often favor better resourced and/or larger organizations that have more staff and bandwidth – a funder can broaden the applicant pool, reach farther and deeper into community and work to place resources with organizations that typically have limited access to grant funding opportunities.   

3. Resolve to Evolve 

This is an ongoing process. We encourage a spirit of curiosity, inquiry, and continuous improvement. You’ll learn by doing, solicit user feedback from grant applicants, and iterate forward. This also creates efficiency for the grantmaker. A rigorous focus streamlines the review process as well, leaving more time for meaningful learning about the context for the work. You might design learning activities and evaluation so the information is useful to grantees and helps them in their work. At minimum, share evaluation results and impact reports with grantees, so they can benefit from the learning as well. This makes the process less extractive and funder-focused and conveys support and respect for their work.  In the spirit of continual learning, you might also consider helping grantees connect with one another by supporting a learning community where grantees are offered consistent opportunities to connect in a collaborative learning environment. This can be a powerful tool to increase engagement opportunities and sustainability through connections to resources and idea sharing.  

How will you reimagine grant requirements in the New Year? Reach out to Erica Weinberg, Director of Grantmaking Services at to learn how TCC Group can support your foundation’s growth, intentionality, and strategic alignment to maximize impact and alleviate grantee burden.   

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