A look back helps to serve the now — and the future

“Life must be understood backwards. But it must be lived forwards.” – Soren Kierkegaard

I manage six affiliate boards in southeastern North Carolina, and this year they will distribute between $2,500 – $16,000 in grants to local nonprofits. Some of the boards have grant committees, while others operate as a “committee of the whole” – which means that all the members read all the applications. In each case, board members evaluate the applications based on the county’s specific criteria, the nonprofit’s service to the community and the potential impact of the proposal, as well as past grant history and performance.

Grant discussions are always lively and interesting, as our affiliate board members bring a deep understanding of their community and its needs to their deliberations. In the past, the grant awards have been the end of the process, but this year the check presentations will signal the beginning of an in-depth discussion of the nature and impact of the affiliate’s annual grantmaking.

We are going to begin this process by looking backwards. How has the board awarded grants in the past? What organizations received funding? Were the grants big enough? How do we know these grants have been effective?  What have our grantees said about process? Can we engage or collaborate with other NC Community Foundation fundholders or local foundations to increase the scope and impact of grantmaking? Can the affiliate help local nonprofits help themselves by funding board governance, financial accountability or grant writing training?

Once we’ve understood the past, the affiliate board members will use this information to move forward and approach their grantmaking more deliberately and strategically. These community leaders are thoughtful stewards of the funds entrusted to them by their friends and neighbors, and they are determined to make every dollar count.