Traditionally, foundations have chosen to maintain an air of mystery about their grantmaking priorities, selection criteria, and even the organizations they support. However, in today’s increasingly digital and connected world, foundations have an opportunity to streamline their grantmaking processes, share their stories of impact to inspire others and attract potential collaborators, and highlight their grantees to draw other prospective funders and supporters to them.

Did you know?

  1. The U.S. is home to 140,000 foundations, yet in our increasingly digital world, only approximately 10 percent of them have websites.
  2. One percent of foundations share recent grants data online and only .1 percent of foundations share the knowledge they are funding or producing online.
  3. Of the 140,000 foundations, only 100 have shared their information on the best practices platform Glasspockets, that facilitates benchmarking and ultimately increased efficiency.
  4. Foundations are increasingly requiring transparency of their grantees throughout the grantmaking process, whether it be from first-time applicants, or for those requesting additional support.

In an increasingly digital and connected world, transparency by foundations can:

  1. Establish credibility in the sector and increases public trust.
  2. Improve relationships with grantees.
  3. Decrease redundancy and increase collaboration with other stakeholders.
  4. Build a community of shared learning and increase potential impact.

The Internet democratizes philanthropy by enabling stakeholders to discover, engage, and partner to innovate around solutions to the myriad of challenges faced by the social sector. Critical to this is effective digital storytelling, which enables foundations to highlight the problems they are working to solve, their solutions to address them through their investments in grantee partners, the impact they have made, and are seeking to address in the future. 

To tell effectively share their stories of impact and attract partners online, foundations need to ensure that their digital presence conveys a sense of transparency, authenticity, clarity of purpose and relevance, because most of their stakeholders (e.g., prospective grantees and funders, policy makers, the public, influencers, and potential funding partners) will research them online to determine alignment. 

When establishing a digital presence, foundations can begin with Foundation Websites created by Candid – a relatively cost-effective and frictionless means to do so. The Glasspockets platform enables foundations to benchmark against others to increase effectiveness, based on a total of 27 indicators and showcase their impact. When researching funding prospects, foundations can access tools such as GuideStar or Recipient Profiles in Foundation Directory Online (FDO)

I will be presenting the half-day workshop on August 14th, Digital Storytelling to Boost Your Organization’s Stakeholder Engagement at Candid’s New York resource center, which will inform foundations of the essential elements needed to position themselves for greater visibility and credibility in the eyes of their stakeholders.

For grantee partners, this workshop enables them to learn about and use the resources available to them online, such as FDO and GrantSpace, to learn about other foundations that could potentially be interested in funding them – thereby increasing their own and the foundation’s impact. Additionally, they will learn about the importance of optimizing their GuideStar profile, to increase their attractiveness to other potential funders.

Learn more about my upcoming workshop on digital storytelling here.

About the Author(s)

Elizabeth (Liz) Ngonzi, MMH (she/her) Founder / CEO, The International Social Institute™ | Adjunct Assistant Professor, The Center for Global Affairs at New York University

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