A Clearinghouse for Grantmaking

Imagine if nonprofit organizations could submit one proposal and one budget each year that was submitted to a Clearinghouse. They could tell their story, share the impact of their programs, and reveal their goals that they hope to achieve for the next year. They wouldn’t have to submit 20 different proposals with 20 different requested attachments to 20 different potential funders. They could create and describe one budget that is broken down into program costs, and not have to “fit” it into the funders’ needs. Instead, they could focus their time on doing what they were created to do: serve our communities.

A dear friend shared this idea a few nights ago, and I embraced it. Having been the Executive Director of a nonprofit, I know how grueling it is to constantly be writing proposals and begging for money. Having to make payroll twice a month keeps you up at night. I know from experience. Constantly asking for money and resources takes the focus off the primary purpose for the organization’s existence. And while some nonprofits can generate revenue from a social enterprise, not every organization could or should do this. The formal definition of a “nonprofit” is an enterprise “not making or conducted primarily to make a profit.” So, let’s stop saying that nonprofits should find a way to exist without the continued help of funders.

If such a Clearinghouse existed, funders – whether traditional foundations or corporations – could peruse the database and decide what and whom they want to fund. All funders would be looking at the same information, the same budgets and the same attachments. They could sort by focus areas and geographic regions and all different kinds of criteria. Calls and meetings could be scheduled to address additional questions, but those would not be a “heavy lift.” There would be some organizations that would not be able to raise the necessary funds and they would probably go out of business. That is not necessarily a bad thing. It would be the nonprofit version of Darwin’s theory: only the best will survive and evolve. Good. We have too many nonprofits as it is.

As our society continues to become more and more reliant on technology and seek efficient ways to work, a Clearinghouse makes sense for everyone involved. I think the chances of it happening are pretty slim, but I always like to dream big.

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