Modern Grantmaking cover

About Modern Grantmaking

Our book is for anyone employed in the curious world of grantmaking, whether you work for a private foundation, a government funder, or a corporate donor.

We've written a practical guide that grantmakers can turn to whenever they need support. To make it quick and easy to use, we’ve filled the book with answers to real-world grantmaking questions.

But it’s about more than handy tips. Every grantmaker can be a reformer too - our book explains why this is so important and how you can get involved.

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Chapter by Chapter




Who is this book for? · Is it even moral to work for Big Philanthropy? · Why should I pay any attention to your advice on grantmaking? · How do I use this book to improve my grantmaking? · Will this book tell me what causes and organisations to give money to? · What is the structure of this book?


What is Modern Grantmaking?

What’s been brewing? · What are the weaknesses of traditional grantmaking? · What are the values that underpin Modern Grantmaking? · How do I know if I’m living up to these values in my grantmaking? · An exercise on Modern Grantmaking values


What are the no-brainers of Modern Grantmaking?

Make most of your grants unrestricted · Adopt a clear mission and make grants that support it · Make more long-term grants · Don’t fund alone · Invest to make applying for your money easy and accessible · Say ‘no’ clearly and quickly · Don’t bounce grantseekers into doing things that aren’t their priorities · Don’t short-change your grantees · Take safeguarding seriously · Be transparent about what you do and don’t fund · Checklist


What should I do about privilege?

What are privilege and power, and why do they matter to a grantmaker? · Can privilege undermine good grantmaking decisions? · Why haven’t funders tackled the problem of unchecked privilege and problematic power imbalances · What does it look like when funders actually check their privilege and power? · Can you give an example of how a funder tackles privilege and power inequalities in its grantmaking? · Checklist


How do I help my funder develop a good strategy?

What is a strategy and why would my organisation need one? · Do you have real examples of funders with clear strategies? · How do I help my funder come up with a good strategy? · How do we gather views on what should or shouldn’t be in our strategy? · How do we actually make use of the new strategy to change things? · Is this the only way of coming up with a useful strategy for my funding organisation? · Checklist


What big questions should all funders debate from time to time?

Should we be open to unsolicited proposals or be an invite-only funder? · Should we fund riskier projects with potentially higher pay-offs or less risky projects with lower pay-offs? · Who makes the final decision on who gets the money? · Should we worry about the financial sustainability of the organisations we fund? · How should we approach our own savings and investments? · How transparent and accountable should we be? · Should our funding organisation be permanent or should it spend down and close? · Checklist


How can I improve the experience of grantseekers and grantees?

What causes bad applicant and grantee experiences? · How can I improve my organisation’s user experience? · What is human-centred design? · How do I improve our service quality if I work for a small funder? · How do I improve our service quality if I work for a larger funder? · Checklist


How should I use research?

When do grantmakers need to think about research? · What is the connection between research and monitoring and evaluation? · What are the most common problems with the ways grantmakers use research today? · What steps should I take to make better use of research? · How to find useful research: a cheat-sheet for busy grantmakers · Checklist


How do I manage well both upwards and downwards?

What does a good manager look like in a funding organisation? · What are the traits of a bad leader or manager of grantmakers? · Are there specific mistakes I should try to avoid as a manager of other grantmakers? · How do I manage upwards to a board or a founding donor? · How do I go about hiring new grantmakers? · Checklist


How do I keep developing my skills?

Why is a lack of good incentives a problem for Modern Grantmakers? · What is the most valuable thing I can do to keep getting better as a grantmaker? · What activities will improve my skills as a grantmaker? · What grantmaking courses and programmes do universities offer? · Checklist


How do I become a grantmaking reformer?

What are the most important lessons in this book? · What does it mean to be a grantmaker who identifies as a reformer? · Are there grantmaker reform movements I can join? · Is Modern Grantmaking a movement I can join? · How can I get started with Modern Grantmaking?


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About the authors
Gemma Bull portrait photo

Gemma Bull

Gemma was England Director and Funding Strategy Director for the UK's largest community funder, which awards £600 million annually. Her responsibilities included building teams, leading hundreds of people and driving a major redesign of the whole organisation’s grantmaking. Previously she was Managing Director for Innovation and Enterprise at Leonard Cheshire Disability and Head of Innovation at Save the Children. She now specialises in supporting organisations to innovate, improve and collaborate.

Tom Steinberg portrait photo

Tom Steinberg

Tom is a nonprofit CEO turned grantmaker. He founded civic tech pioneers mySociety and developed data and technology policy for the UK government before becoming a senior executive at two of the UK’s largest institutional funders. Tom is an Ashoka Fellow, a board member at the International Consortium of International Journalists, and the co-founder of an open access education project run out of the Harvard Kennedy School.

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Services we offer

Interested in Modern Grantmaking? We can help...

We can help you with:

  • Modern Grantmaking workshops: A full or half day grounded on the five values that underpin Modern Grantmaking. Each workshop can be tailored to your specific needs.
  • Embedding Modern Grantmaking at your funder: Whether redesigning how you do grantmaking, redeveloping your strategy or overhauling your recruiting, Gemma and Tom are available to bring a Modern Grantmaking perspective and values to your reform.
  • Speaking at events: Gemma and Tom are available to talk about Modern Grantmaking as keynote speakers and on panels.
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