Talking Grants With GE Foundation's Asha Varghese
Grants offer fundraisers a great funding source for their nonprofits. However, putting all your fundraising eggs in the grants basket is a risky proposition. Grants are not guaranteed to be renewed, and foundations can reassess their grants and granting practices at any time.
That means fundraisers should continue to have multiple sources of funding — everything from grants to major gifts to corporate sponsorships and especially a strong base of individual donors … and more.
Of course, that does not mean fundraisers should avoid grants — far from it, in fact! Grants can be incredibly valuable for any nonprofit.
The GE Foundation is a funder that works with hundreds of nonprofits worldwide. The key factor in selecting grantees for the GE Foundation is an alignment in values and mission.
"When we look for partners, specifically for the health organizations, we look to make sure the nonprofit aligns with our areas of focus," says Asha Varghese, director of global health programs at the GE Foundation. "… There's a couple key criteria we look for. Sustainability and scalability are part of the work we do.
"We start off with a pilot program or seed funding, and we look to ensure that these programs have a potential for scalability and sustainability. That's a key component of our program," she adds. "… In true GE fashion, everything we work on is outcomes-driven. Nonprofits need to validate program sustainability and the impact of the program in their region."
The GE Foundation does not have an application process. Rather, it looks for grantees based on the types of work nonprofits do and the areas that are priorities for GE. It clearly lays out how it awards grants on its website and provides grantee requirements that include an impact report, publicity, budget changes, grant extensions and more. Most foundations have similar details on their grant processes, and it's vital for organizations seeking grants to know, understand and adhere to those guidelines.
Here are some of the keys from Varghese for fundraisers to keep in mind when seeking grants from funders such as the GE Foundation:
- Accountable partnerships. "Partner commitment is a key trait for any NGO," Varghese says. "We're looking for collaborators. In all areas of our focus, how are we leveraging GE's DNA with partnerships? Who are the organizations that can collaborate with us and compliment us? … We don't look at ourselves a funding agency. We look at ourselves as collaborators working with nonprofits to help design solutions."
- Knowledge of the funder. "Even though we say no unsolicited requests, we still get requests. What really stands out are the requests that have done their due diligence," Varghese says. "What does the GE Foundation stand for? Go a step further than just saying, 'You guys manufacture XYZ.' Show us, 'Here's where we could really make an impact.' When you see someone has done that due diligence, gone the extra mile, as opposed to a blanket request, those capture our attention if it's a good fit."
- Flexible solutions. "You don't necessarily need to have a complete package or solution form the very beginning to start the conversation. Think through the why's and how's," Varghese says. "We work with organizations as long as we see the commitment, passion and the leadership of the organization know we are working together. Sometimes NGOs invest so much time in finding the perfect solution and don't tend to veer from it. Then it becomes very difficult to maintain if it's not flexible. Be able to mold it based on needs. It's always necessary. Some of our best partnerships are able to make tweaks, and they're always more successful."
- Accountability and transparency. "They are the two big things we look for," Varghese says. "Passion goes without saying, but a lot of NGOs are passionate and are driven. So when we work with NGOs, it's very outcomes-driven. Data speak volumes. Showcase those components that will really speak to the impact of the program."