Grantseeking in 2017: Transparency Rules

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This post originally appeared on the TechSoup blogWe thought our library audience would appreciate Cynthia Adams' advice on how to improve their grantseeking efforts.

For the past nine years, my husband and I have spent the winter months in Baja, Mexico. After 40 years in Alaska, we figure we can handle a few warm winters. One of the best things about my time here each year is taking long walks along the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean and actually spending time thinking (a rare commodity for any of us these days).

I decided, on my latest foray along the cliffs, to write a series of blogs focusing on the overarching themes that I feel are important for every nonprofit organization to know about and understand as we move into 2017.

For me, the overarching themes include

  • Exhibiting transparency in all that you do
  • Demonstrating inclusion
  • Being bold in your requests

Let me share with you my thinking behind these themes and why they are important to you, whether you are an all-volunteer organization or one of the largest operating nonprofits in the nation.

Today's post focuses on the first theme.

Exhibiting Transparency

Transparency issues have been a topic of discussion within the grantmaking world for a while now. Most of you already know about Glasspockets, a project of the Foundation Center.

The Foundation Center says, "A foundation that operates transparently is one that provides information about its work, operations and processes, and what it is learning in an open, accessible, and timely manner. For foundations operating in today's digital age, transparency also really means having a virtual presence in addition to a physical one so anyone can quickly learn what you do, why you do it, and what difference it makes in the world."

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Transparency within the grantmaking world is clearly taking off. It isn't the norm yet, but progress is being made toward that goal. So, as more and more grantmakers adopt the transparency concept for their own organizations, won't they now begin to wonder about the transparency — or lack of — within the organizations that ask for their support?

My guess is yes.

How Do You Exhibit Transparency?

Think of being transparent as simply being open about who you are and what you do. Once you start thinking this way, you will find many ways to demonstrate transparency, but let me offer just a few ideas to get you started.

Mission Statement

Publish your mission statement front and center on your website, on all printed materials, and most importantly on all your grant applications. Personally, I like to use the mission statement as a transition paragraph between the statement of need and the project description.

Your mission statement is only relevant if your board and staff review it regularly. Make sure your board reviews your mission statement each year. The next step is to date stamp it, which adds credibility to the statement, as well as transparency. The date stamp usually appears at the end of the mission statement. For example: Board Reviewed - January 15, 2017.

Strategic Plan

Post your strategic plan on your website. Again, date stamp this document with the board approval date and add how long the plan has been in effect. You can include other pieces of information here to show transparency. Let's say the strategic plan was a result of a survey you did with your membership or with the clients you serve. You would want to state that and perhaps even link to the results of that survey.

And to add some accountability to the strategic plan, it's a good idea to update it regularly, demonstrating objectives accomplished, goals reached, etc.

Other Ideas

I'm sure you can think of many other ways to make your organization transparent, not only for the benefit of grantmakers but also to demonstrate to the world what you do and how you do it.

Upcoming Grantseeking Events from TechSoup

On January 24, take a tour of GrantStation and learn how to use all of the valuable resources GrantStation offers, including the extensive funder databases that can help you identify the grantmakers most likely to fund your programs or projects.

Register now

On January 26, sign up for a free webinar on practical information to help you write successful grants. Alice Ruhnke, owner and founder of The Grant Advantage, will outline ways to infuse your organization's strengths into your proposal to create the best application possible.

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On January 31 and February 1, you'll be able to get a GrantStation annual subscription for just $99! The regular discounted cost of an annual subscription at TechSoup is $299, and the retail price of this same one-year subscription is $699. Mark your calendar now for January 31 and February 1!

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About the Author

Cynthia Adams, President and CEO of, Inc., has spent the past 40 years helping nonprofits raise the money needed for their good work. She opened GrantStation because grant seeking requires a thorough understanding of the variety and scope of grant makers and a sound knowledge of the philanthropic playing field. Her life’s work has been to level that playing field, creating an opportunity for all nonprofit organizations to access the wealth of grant opportunities across the U.S. and throughout the world.

Image 1: LDprod / Shutterstock

Image 2: Cynthia M Adams