Responsive grantmaking is the Weingart Foundation's main vehicle for awarding grants throughout Southern California. By accepting unsolicited grant requests that meet the Foundation's guidelines, we are able to direct our resources to important, emerging and unmet needs of the communities that comprise the region.
Throughout the history of the Foundation, the Board of Directors has sought areas in which special impact might be achieved. The initiation of promising efforts intended to address critical community issues has enabled the Foundation to support more than a dozen vital Special Projects and Initiative programs — ranging from education and youth and community development, to health and human services. Special Initiatives complement our core grantmaking program and address areas where we believe the Foundation can achieve a deeper and focused impact over a period of time.
Once a precise area of need is identified, our Board and staff members come together to commission research. This includes studying current thinking on the issue, interviewing experts in the field, and identifying best practices being implemented locally and throughout the country. Of significance, this research always emphasizes the solicitation of input from grantees that have knowledge of the issue. And it is primarily through our responsive grantmaking program that the Foundation identifies strong organizations to include as participants.
Based on the findings of this research, the Foundation determines the scale and scope of the effort to be funded. Specific goals and timelines of the Initiative are clearly defined, along with an implementation strategy. We then invite nonprofits with expertise in the field — as well as the organizational capacity to address the issue-to participate in the Initiative.
Special Initiative grants have several other features. The Foundation provides additional learning opportunities through sponsoring of grantee convenings on an ongoing basis. In addition, the Foundation may add a challenge component to the grant to stimulate financial support from other sources and encourage sustained funding once the Weingart Foundation's commitment ends. We also conduct an assessment of each Initiative in order to gauge how goals are being achieved, to learn from our grantee's experiences, and to inform the future direction of an Initiative program. All of this serves to strengthen and inform the Foundation's decision-making process, and creates best practices for future grantmaking.