Foundation Operations: Grantmaking-> Establishing a Grantmaking Program-> Philanthropic Process - GIH Skip Navigation

Foundation Operations: Grantmaking-> Establishing a Grantmaking Program-> Philanthropic Process

Making Good Things Happen: The Philanthropic Process

Spend just a moment in a foundation and you will realize that philanthropy involves more than just writing checks. Below are some basic steps in the philanthropic process.

First, the foundation must have a basis for grantmaking. Important documents include articles and bylaws, a mission and vision for the foundation, and a statement of values or ethics.

The foundation, guided by its mission and vision, will perform an environmental scan to determine the greatest needs in its community. A community health assessment typically involves an assessment plan, a community profile, a determination of key health needs of the community, estimates of the health status of the community, and recommendations for action. A foundation might use this information to plan their own programming and future grantmaking and to equip community members, public health leaders, and city planners with the information necessary to improve the health of the community. A new foundation may also use key findings from an assessment to develop its strategic plan, grantmaking program, yearly budget, or staffing plan.

After determining the community’s needs, the foundation will carve out specific programmatic focus areas such as improving access to children’s health care, promoting healthy eating and active living, or preventing substance abuse.

Once the focus areas have been selected, the foundation will devise grantmaking strategies. Many foundations opt to use a Request for Proposals (RFP) process, whereby they solicit grant proposals.

As the foundation decides how it will award grants, it will begin communicating its intentions to the community and begin soliciting grants. Grantmaking guidelines generally include a statement of the foundation's mission and, often, its vision and values; a description of the grant programs or funding interests, purpose, and priorities; eligibility requirements; funding restrictions; information on the decisionmaking process; application deadlines; the application process; and proposal instructions – the specified length and what the application should include as well as the required attachments. After the review process, the foundation will award grants. The grantee and the foundation officer will sign a contract that outlines the terms of the grant agreement.

Once grants have been awarded, it is in the foundation’s best interest to develop an ongoing relationship with the grantee. Finally, a foundation will greatly benefit from the process of sharing its stories and lessons learned.



Council on Foundations, “Grantmaking Basics Online.” This guide and interactive learning tool provides information for those involved in the day-to-day grantmaking processes of a foundation or corporation. The Web site contains text from the printed book and sample documents. Available at

The Foundation Center, Practice Matters. The Practice Matters project represents a collective field-building effort involving more than 150 grantmakers, scholars, and other experts who set out to fill the gap in knowledge about the fundamental foundation practices that lead to good grantmaking. Titles include The Capacity Building Challenge, Ideas in Philanthropic Field-Building: Where They Come from and How They Are Translated into Actions, Experienced Grantmakers at Work: When Creativity Comes Into Play, and Toward Greater Effectiveness in Community Change: Challenges and Responses for Philanthropy.

GrantCraft, GrantCraft Guides. A project of the Ford Foundation, GrantCraft produces a series of guides, each focused on a different grantmaking topic. These guides are based on actual grantmaker experiences and told in their voices. They offer a wide range of actions, interventions, and strategies that grantmakers use to be more effective. Titles include Grant Making with a Gender Lens, Working with Start-Ups, Providing for the Long Term, Saying Yes / Saying No to Applicants, When Projects Flounder, Mapping Change: Using a Theory of Change to Guide Planning and Evaluation, and Building Community Inside and Out.


Print Print   Share Share   RSS RSS
GIH Connect

Connect with GIH to learn, collaborate, and grow through education, networking, and leadership opportunities.

Sign Up
Sign up for the GIH Bulletin to stay on top of news from the field.

Funding Partner Portal Login
Login to access exclusive Funding Partner resources from GIH.