Balancing Your Grants Portfolio: Sustaining and Investment Grants

We’ve heard it so many times: “diversify, diversify, diversify.”  Healthy fundraising includes a mix of grants, major gifts, annual gifts and, if we are so fortunate, earned income.  But what about diversification within your grants portfolio?  In this post, we’ll take a quick look at types of grants.

Lets start with sustaining grants.  This isn’t a term that gets used very often with regard to institutional support but its one that I take a hard look at when trying to design a balanced portfolio.  In brief, sustaining grants are contributions that help to maintain and sustain your operations or an ongoing program.   Usually modest in size, these grants let the recipient organization know that the foundation still cares about your work .  These are viewed by many grantmakers as “low risk” grants so help with sustainability and with the expectation of modest reward.  As one grantmaker once told me: “Sometimes it’s just enough to keep something good going.”

Then there are investment grants.  These tend to be large grants that support the mission, vision and theory of change of both your organization and the grantmaker.  These are the grants that support program creation or expansion and carry modest to high risk for the donor but have the promise of high reward.  No surprise that these gifts take longer to cultivate, solicit and ultimately to steward.

Next time, we will take a look at the balancing act: building a blend of sustaining and investment grants that, together, prudently build and sustain your good works!


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