Nonprofit Sector

Craig H. Neilsen Foundation

Full Cost Bright Spot
Man in wheelchair and three others wearing all black dancing in front of a colorful painted mural outside.

By Kym Eisner, Executive Director, Craig H. Neilsen Foundation

If I were advising a family member or friend, I would always suggest that they save for a rainy day. Yet, often, foundations require grantees to spend all of their money down before they can be considered for additional funding.  

At the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation, we’ve made a commitment to challenge our conventions and practices like this that make things harder for the nonprofits whose missions we support. While we are just beginning to implement changes that better support nonprofits’ full needs and costs, we’re already seeing positive results.

Woman in competition gear propelling herself in racing wheelchair 

Last year, with our board’s support, we tested one way to apply full-cost concepts in our grantmaking. We allowed a group of grantees who had completed work on their projects to keep any grant surpluses less than 25 percent. Now, these organizations who have already proven to be good stewards of our funds have a small cushion, money they can apply freely to other needs. And our staff doesn’t need to track and collect these surpluses. A relatively small shift in our budget has had a significant impact.

Embracing this approach has the potential to improve relationships with grantees, has already given our leadership new language and opportunities to evaluate our grantmaking, and fueled additional quick, targeted changes in processes to make things easier for grant applicants and Foundation staff. 

There are still challenges to overcome but we must acknowledge the issues nonprofits face. Living our foundation’s values requires that we ask ourselves how we can better support grantees, without whom we wouldn’t be able to carry out our mission. This is a new journey for us, but I’m inspired by the speed and impact of the changes we’ve made so far. 

Woman adjusting man’s foot in adaptive bike
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