The Beauty of the General Support Grant

Many funders said they preferred to choose proven, effective advocacy organizations as grantees and then offer them core support to carry out their work.

“My strong belief is that the grantees are the experts. Once you find grantees with the capacity, they will make better judgments than you will about how the money should be spent. They know much better than I what needs to be done at any given moment. The best way to support that work is to give them unrestricted money to spend on the things you agree on generally – however they see fit. And every effective grantee told us, without exception, that the best money you could give us is general support.” “It was my colleagues, other program officers, who were skeptical of it, because they thought it wasn’t strategic. My response to them was: ‘Engage grantees more, but put fewer restrictions on their money.’ If the money isn’t restricted, then you don’t have to get into silly dances about how they met the letter of the contract and you met the letter of the tax laws, and you can really engage them about how to be as effective as possible.

A 501(c)(3) that is really experienced in advocacy will know far better than you do what their legal spending limits are, what the permissible activities are, and so on. When you give them general support, you don’t have to immerse yourself in that. Your conversations are on a high level — big-picture questions like concepts, direction, orientation. That’s what the word ‘strategy’ really means — setting goals and objectives, not the workplans for how to reach them.”

Takeaways are critical, bite-sized resources either excerpted from our guides or written by Candid Learning for Funders using the guide's research data or themes post-publication. Attribution is given if the takeaway is a quotation.

This takeaway was derived from Advocacy Funding.