Many funders are challenged by how to respond to the multitude of needs in their communities, even within a narrower lens of specific interest areas: If we’re too responsive in our grantmaking, giving only to those who seek us out, how are we being strategic?
If we’re only proactive in our grantmaking, funding only efforts we uncover to tackle issues we want to address, what important opportunities might we miss?
These questions come up in many different ways. For new funders seeking to find the balance that makes sense for them, or for more established funders assessing their current strategies, it can be helpful to reflect on the pros and cons of responsive and proactive giving strategies. Those who are considering a shift toward more proactive approaches may find it useful to ask five key questions to guide their planning.
Responsive giving: pros and cons
A grantmaker may wish to pursue a more responsive approach when there seems to be a need for broader-based support of a range of groups and issues. This approach can open the door to critical support for smaller, more nimble and newer nonprofits. Some of these groups may have innovative ideas with great promise, and a responsive grantmaking process offers a way for funders to learn about such efforts.
On the other hand, if funders only respond to unsolicited requests, three challenges can arise.