The Challenging, Rewarding World of Grantmaking

Grantmaking is a large part of the Community Foundation’s role. In FY2019 (July 1, 2018, through June 30, 2019), $5 million was invested into our community through grants to local nonprofits, and other organizations such as civic and faith-based groups. Grants are both competitive and designated, meaning that some grants are created through a competitive application process, and other grants are “designated” by the donor specifically to support an organization or cause, and are provided annually. Our ability to do this starts with generous donors who want to make a difference and who use the Community Foundation as their conduit for their charitable giving.

Grantmaking is a process that comes with a variety of rewards and challenges. I recently talked with Dr. Amaris Little, Community Foundation trustee and grant committee chairperson, to get her perspective about our competitive grantmaking. Dr. Little has been a member of the grant committee since 2014 and has served as chairperson since 2017.

Reviewing competitive grant applications is the most complicated part of the process. “We see what great need there is in Frederick County, and we’re challenged to make difficult choices between many compelling grant applications and funding one program or another,” Dr. Little said. “We’re fortunate that our grant committee volunteers have a broad range of experience and expertise, which helps bridge the information gap. In addition, the number of applications increases each year, requesting larger dollar amounts. More organizations than ever before are relying on the Community Foundation for funding, and our board has stepped up and approved money from our reserve funds when needed.”

Our grantmaking process has evolved with the time, Dr. Little says. Technology has brought great advances in software and has helped streamline the review process and rating system dramatically. “The rating system is really important because it helps us answer the question about the request fitting the purpose of the fund providing the money,” she said. “Then, the group discussion and the perspectives shared help the committee determine how much impact a grant supporting one program or another can make for the benefit of the community.”  

Our staff constantly reviews the grant process, and I asked Dr. Little what she thinks is unique about our grantmaking. “The Community Foundation has its finger on the pulse of what’s going on in the community and what’s coming up. We do our homework so that we can anticipate needs. We’re not stuck in one place doing the same things the same way every year.”

Finally, I asked Dr. Little what advice she would offer for organizations seeking grants, and what she believes that donors should know.  “We want to fund great programs, so the content provided in the application is really important. Sometimes that’s all the information we have towards making the decision,” Dr. Little said regarding organizations that apply. “Attend the grant information sessions provided and learn how to make your application stronger.”

“Donors should know that there are many people involved in the grantmaking decision process,” Dr. Little went on to say. “The grant committee members invest a huge amount of time to ensure we make the best decisions and that the Community Foundation is a good steward of their charitable dollars because we all care about what’s happening in our community.”