Legacy Magazine: Choosing Foundation Grantees

Serving on one of The Foundation’s grants committees is a highlight for many members of our Board of Trustees. Our lay leaders invest significant time and thoughtful effort each year to ensure our grants address timely pressing issues facing our community.

Here, three of our grants committee chairs — each a longstanding trustee — share their insights into The Foundation’s fair and thorough strategy:

What do you look for when reviewing a grant application?

MARK SCHWARTZ: First, we make sure the program fits our criteria that have been developed jointly with staff and the grants committee. Because we serve a broad spectrum of needs in the community, a grant application that is highly focused on a specific large and growing segment is appealing. We look for creative solutions to problems that will affect a large number of people.

MARCIA WEINER MANKOFF: We are simultaneously evaluating the strength of the request, the community’s need for this program, the organization’s track record, and its leadership and financial sustainability. We hold all applicants to the same criteria to ensure that we are viewing all proposals through an equitable lens.

SELWYN GERBER: The three core factors are governance, viability, and effectiveness. We are concerned with such matters as whether there are other sources of funding, the effectiveness and efficiency of services provided, and the demographic being served. For our Israel Grants, we focus on being diversified geographically and by population category.

What qualities make a grant applicant stand out from the rest?

MARK: A grant applicant with a record of successfully serving a specific target population is likely to stand out. Additionally a grant applicant serving a population that is growing and that we have not previously aided will likely draw our attention.

MARCIA: In addition to having strong leadership and a well-qualified professional team, the applicants who stand out often approach a specific community’s needs in a unique or innovative way.

SELWYN: A clear description of the organization’s mission and needs and its adherence to factors outlined in the criteria we develop each year.

What advice would you give a nonprofit seeking to apply for a grant?

MARK: I would encourage all grant applicants to take full advantage of all the resources The Foundation offers. The staff holds grant workshops to provide valuable assistance to grant seekers. They have an encyclopedic knowledge of the Jewish community and are a wonderful resource not only in the application process but as a source of advice during the grant implementation phase. The Foundation can also connect a nonprofit to other potential funders.

MARCIA: Help us understand what distinguishes you from others doing similar work. If you are invited to present to our committee, consider bringing past beneficiaries of your program to take part in the presentation, as they help bring your program to life.

SELWYN: Start by reviewing our website to gain a sense of the work we support and our process. Be prepared to provide references from other funders.

We are grateful for the expertise and dedication of committee chairs like Mark, Marcia, and Selwyn for guiding The Foundation in our institutional grantmaking.

This article was featured in The Foundation’s Spring 2022 Legacy magazine.