Every grantmaking organisation that is serious about spending money effectively has a website.
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Six things to check that your funder's website does

Every grantmaking organisation that is serious about spending money effectively has a website.

This is true not just of funders that want people to apply through an open call for proposals, it’s also true of invite-only funders whose donors want to maintain a very low personal profile.

Why is it so important to have a website? Three words: fairness, effectiveness and transparency. A funder without a website is basically a funder that’s unfair on everyone in the world that isn’t within the personal networks of the trustees or staff. And it's also a funder that will be choosing from a limited pool of collaborators and people to fund, lowering likely impact. That just doesn’t cut it in 2023.

OK but what needs to go on our website? 

The capital R ‘Right’ way of building or improving your website is to go through a process of service design - grab our book plus Lou Downe’s book right now to learn what this means in more detail. In a nutshell it means taking time and energy to listen carefully to what your users actually want, before you put what they want on your website.

But sometimes you don’t have time for that. Some weeks you’ve just got an afternoon where you can whack something up that will be better than nothing. So what should you do?

To keep it simple: you should add content that answers people's key questions.

Below we suggest six key questions that anyone visiting your website should be able to get answers to, quickly and easily. These are questions that some of the people visiting your website today 100% for certain want answers to, right now. So why not run through these questions, while looking at your own organisation’s website at the same time? For fun grab a colleague and do it together. Can you find answers to the following six questions within a few seconds?

1. "Can I send you a funding application?" Almost certainly the most frequent question that the average funder website needs to answer, but often very poorly answered, or not answered at all*. And remember, if your foundation is ‘invite only’ you should still have a page that outlines how you proactively find organisations to fund. Being transparent about your way of finding new grantees shows you’re committed to fair funding, even if you have to limit volumes.

2. "What grants have you made in the past?" When we were both working at the Lottery the web analytics showed that the list of past grants was the second most popular part of the site. Top Tip: don’t build your own database of previous grants, just give your grants data to 360Giving and then link out for free to your funder page on GrantNav. It's better for you, and better for everyone else.

3. "What criteria will you apply to decide on new grants?" If you don’t publish your grantmaking criteria, then prospective applicants will just have to guess what you might want, and they’ll waste your time and theirs pitching irrelevant projects. So publish your criteria, consider adding an ‘eligibility checker’ and don’t hide unofficial criteria that are critically important to applicants but you’re embarrassed to share, e,g “We don't really fund anything very politically edgy". 

4. "How can I send you a message that will definitely get a reply?" Putting an info@ email address onto your site is all well and good, but try to tell your visitors what sort of messages you do and don't want (e.g 'Please don't submit full proposals'). Also try to make it clear whether most people can expect a reply or not, and if so how long it will take. Put that info right by the email address so that grantseekers know whether to bother sending you a message in the first place. Finally, if your organisation has taken an active choice not to publish the email addresses of staff and trustees (to limit load) have an internal conversation about what you can do to make access to you more fair for people who can't network their way to getting hold of your individual email addresses.

5. "What evidence do you have of the success or failure of grants made in the past?" There are lots of people who would like to know whether a specific grant you made in the past worked or not, and why. So, if you can, publish or link to any research that exists that others might be able to benefit from, and make sure it’s easy to find.

6. "What are your goals, as a funder?" Probably the majority of all funders today have formal, written funding strategies. But they can be very coy about sharing those with people outside their castle walls. Don’t be one of those funders. If you agreed a strategy whack that up where everyone can find it. It’s a gift for current grantees, prospective grantseekers, and - of course - other funders who want to know whether to collaborate with you.

Sorted those? Fantastic.

Now it’s time to go check out the Foundation Practice Rating which rates foundations across a range of good practice criteria, relying exclusively on information sourced from funders’ websites. It’s awesome and can help you go much further than our little list above.

* Try This Bonus Fun Game: Try to answer our no.1 question above - “Can I send you a funding application?” - using the Gates Foundation Website. Then understand that having a good website that meet real users' needs is not just about how much money you have.

What we've been teaching

In the last few months we've carried out a whole series of different in-house trainings for funders of different shapes and sizes. They are always masses of fun, and are highly interactive - there's no opportunities to have a nap at the back! We have delivered deeply practical skills development sessions that include:

  - Having better conversations with grantseekers and grantees
  - Improving the experience of applying for your grants
  - Making sure your own power and privilege doesn't ruin your grantmaking
  - How to approach research, monitoring and evaluation
  - How to embed Modern Grantmaking values and practices in your work
... and lots more besides. If you think your funder could benefit from having us hold a customised session for you and your colleagues, please just hit reply to this email, and we'll fix up a chat. 

What we've been reading

How about a new job or trustee role in grantmaking?

Want to see your job ad in next month’s newsletter? Ping us! We now only share job ads that #ShowTheSalary.

Grantmaking ‘joke’ of the month

Q. Why did the clown give flexible funding?
A. It was a nice jester.

Got any terrible or actually funny grantmaking jokes to share?......tell us. 

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Who are we?

Gemma Bull and Tom Steinberg run Modern Grantmaking Ltd, and write this newsletter. We do consulting and training specifically for funders, and wrote a book on how to be a modern grantmaker, too.
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