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Nonprofit Grant Review Site GrantAdvisor is the Disruptive Tool Fundraisers Need

This post was contributed by Wayne Elsey, founder and CEO of Elsey Enterprises.

Philanthropy is not merely evolving. Disruption is taking place in all areas of our global society, and the primary force is technology.

I realize that disruption can have negative connotations, and sometimes it can be viewed as being against the interests of nonprofit organizations and their operations. But, I recently came across a disruptive tool that can be very beneficial for nonprofits, and that can bring much more transparency about funders.

Transforming Philanthropy with a 7-Minute Survey
Recently, I came across an interesting tool called GrantAdvisor, and if you receive some of your funding from institutional partners, you should take a look at the platform. In the digital age, one of the primary disruptive ideas has been transparency. In fact, there are conversations in the global sphere about radical transparency, and technology is forcing corporations, government, businesses and, yes, even nonprofits and now funders to become much more transparent.

As a nonprofit grant review site GrantAdvisor positions itself by saying that it “facilitates open dialogue between nonprofits and grantmakers by collecting authentic, real-time reviews and comments on grantseekers’ experience with funders to encourage more productive philanthropy.”

In other words, nonprofits and charities can get on GrantAdvisor and share anonymous reviews about their philanthropic funders. Also, the platform is seeking to create a forum for organizations to share (and social media has made “sharing” a priority) how these particular donors are making an impact in the philanthropic sector. The thinking behind that is to allow funders that are being reviewed to gain an understanding of how nonprofits view them in the industry.

GrantAdvisor wants nonprofits before they even approach a funder to take a look at their platform, read the reviews and then decide whether to proceed in making a grant request.

Isn’t that a novel idea?

The Idea of Reading and Writing a Nonprofit Grant Review Provides a Balance of Power
If you’ve ever done nonprofit fundraising, then you understand that funders have held all the cards. Many fundraisers have experienced submitting a grant request that they were sure they were going to receive, or that they were excited about because of the clout of the funder, only to not receive anything from them or have the donor try to dictate terms––sometimes contrary to the mission or vision of the nonprofit.

By the look of it, those days could be over.

Currently, GrantAdvisor is available for funder reviews in California and Minnesota. 2018 will bring more announcements for additional states, with the eventual goal of spreading across the United States. A national leadership panel was convened for the creation of this platform, which includes the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits and the California Association of Nonprofits. Additional partners include the Association of Fundraising Professionals and Social Media for Nonprofits, which means that the nonprofit sector developed the idea, as opposed to the for-profit industry.

The reality is that funders themselves have long understood the fact that the balance of power is on their side. And, because we live in an era where donors are demanding the resolution of intractable societal issues, leading funders understand that if there is pressure on nonprofits for metrics and demonstrable impact, well then there also has to be constructive feedback about institutional donors.

In a recent Fast Company article, Vu Le, an executive director at Rainier Valley Corps, which serves on the national leadership panel said, “Because of the power dynamics, we are kind of really afraid to be honest and transparent about the challenges to give feedback. Funders also feel like we’re not really being very truthful to them, so we’re really trying to get a get around these power dynamics that are very pervasive in the sector and also keep people more accountable because this is public feedback.”

Funders find themselves on the GrantAdvisor platform after it has received five reviews. At that point, the reviews become public; however, donors do have the chance to respond to the reporting. The reports address the grant application process, have emoji based scoring, and permit the expression of views about the funder on its influence in the field. Some of the current donors reviewed are the Bush Foundation, Wells Fargo Foundation, McKnight Foundation and the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.

GrantAdvisor is a fascinating tool of philanthropic disruption, which should help nonprofits understand, especially as more funders enter the database, about the role of the donor in the sector. Disruption doesn’t merely have to be a challenge for nonprofits to do better, but it’s also a challenge for funders to ensure accountability and transparency about the funding process.

About the Author

Wayne Elsey is the founder and CEO of Elsey Enterprises (EE). Among his various independent brands, he is also the founder and CEO of Funds2Orgs, which is a social enterprise that helps nonprofits, individuals and organizations raise funds while helping to support micro-enterprise (small business) opportunities in developing nations. The shoe drive fundraising recently unveiled the 3.0 version of its new website, which you can see at Funds2Orgs.com. You can also follow Wayne’s blog at NotYourFathersCharity.com, which includes digital downloads of all of his books and resource papers on the “Free Resources” page.

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