The Seybert Foundation adapts grantmaking process to provide general operating funding
Thursday, March 21, 2013
Posted by: Amy Seasholtz
By Alex Vuocolo | Posted on Tuesday, March 19, 2013
In response to decreasing grant amounts, The Seybert Foundation is adapting its grantmaking process
to provide general operating funding rather than project-specific
funding. This shift in focus is intended to maximize the value of the
grants by giving nonprofits the autonomy to use them as they see fit.
"While well-managed nonprofits have learned to do more with less for
years now, a grant can only go as far as the strings attached will
allow,” wrote Seybert manager Diana Loukedis Doherty in an address about
Generally, cash-strapped foundations are doing the opposite. Instead
of loosening the qualifications for grants, they are using stricter
criteria for applicants and even cutting the overall number of grantees.
The Philadelphia Cultural Fund, for example, made news recently for denying a grant to a West Philadelphia nonprofit.
This came in the wake of budget shortfalls and the adoption of a
stricter criteria for applicants. For the first time —as of 2011 —the
organization is rejecting a significant number of applicants.
But as many nonprofit and philanthropic leaders have noted, funding
for general operations can have greater mileage and value, especially if
guaranteed over multiple years.
Paul Brest, president and director of The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation’s philanthropy program, wrote in a 2008 essay
that narrowly defined funding can burden nonprofits with a difficult
application process and limit the flexibility of their operations.
The Seybert Foundation, which caters to nonprofits focused on youth
outreach, has adopted this philosophy and is even considering it as
their main answer to decreased grant amounts. Now, as of the 2013 grant
cycle, they have streamlined their application process and leveled off
their average grant amount at $3,000.
"It gives you just a little more flexibility with what you can do with the grant,” said Whitney King, development associate at Steppingstone Scholars,
which received a general operations grant from Seybert. She added that
the funds do happen to support specific programs, but that the general
operating grant allows the organization to move around funding as needed
and adapt to changes.