F A Q s

(Frequently Admirable Questions)

Thanks for taking the time to learn more about GrantAdvisor.

General Questions Reviewer Questions Funder Questions From a Funder's Perspective

General Questions

What is GrantAdvisor?

GrantAdvisor is a website that allows grant applicants, grantees, and others to share their first-hand experiences working with funders and for funders to respond on the record. Feedback is collected anonymously. Once we've collected 5 reviews of a funder, the data will be shared publicly. Foundations are encouraged to respond to comments, with the goal of improving grantmaker-grantee relationships and strengthening the fields in which funders work.

If you’re going on a trip, you check TripAdvisor; if you’re going to apply for a grant, you check GrantAdvisor. If you’re a hotel, you check TripAdvisor to see what your customers like best and least about you… and foundations can see how grantees and colleagues are experiencing working with them.

How did GrantAdvisor come to adopt two penguins as its symbol?

Our two penguins (Grant-y and Grant-r) are very open, friendly, and supportive of one another, always eager to share widely what they learn on land and water. They love to share ideas, honest feedback, and questions and suggestions about how to strengthen philanthropy, nonprofits, and communities. Like their relatives from the neutral continent of Antarctica, Grant-y and Grant-r are all about cooperation, family support, taking turns, persevering despite difficult conditions, and being graceful in their own specialized way.

Who writes the reviews?

You know that woman who kindly turned in your lost wallet at the coffee shop, or that guy who helpfully left space for you to merge onto the freeway? They would write reviews.

Our reviews are written by thoughtful people who know that a few moments of their time, and a few words of wisdom based on their own experience, can be lifesavers for someone else. Our reviewers may have applied for a grant, received a grant, or worked with the funder in another way, but they all have direct experience with the funder. (Note: if you look at the top of their review, you will see their relationship to the funder.)

Are reviews anonymous?

All reviews are absolutely, 100% anonymous. Upon registering, you will be assigned a randomized, anonymous username, which will be displayed next to any comments you post. We hope this will encourage real and honest feedback. However, foundations will have the opportunity to post responses and comments using the real name of their foundation.

Are survey responses monitored by GrantAdvisor?

GrantAdvisor is committed to ensuring a respectful and productive platform for public discussion about grantmaking and philanthropy. Survey responses are therefore screened both automatically and manually to ensure that our Community Guidelines are met. We ask that reviewers not mention staff members by name and refrain from using language that is threatening, slanderous, discriminatory, or that contains spam. We have outlined our full Community Guidelines in the Terms and Conditions.

Are you worried about people gaming the site (posting fake reviews)?

Wait, are you telling me that not everything I read on the Internet is true? Uh-oh.

In general, we think the nonprofit sector has a lot of integrity, so we don't expect a lot of people trying to game this site. Spam and bad words will be filtered out, but, like the majority of sites on the Internet, there's no way for us to verify every posted review. As with all things on the Internet, you have to use your judgment. Read the reviews, and judge for yourself which ones sound credible.

How were the survey questions developed?

The site currently displays the 2017 Survey Questions, which were developed based on input from our partners and advisors that this would help provide useful information and round-out the picture of each grantmaker. We are currently receiving suggestions and input for the 2018 Survey Questions and want to hear from you. Are there questions you found more or less useful? Do you have any suggestions? Please contact us here and let us know.

How do you promote this information to funders or nonprofits?

We've built the site to be easily found by search engines. Funders who have been reviewed on GrantAdvisor will see their GrantAdvisor review come up near the top of a search results page. Knowing that search engines only rule part of the world, we hope that folks like you will spread the word as well.

What is your business model?

We are a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization and are funded by foundations and individual donors. GrantAdvisor is free for all users during the pilot year, after which we may adopt a paid membership system. (However, free access will be granted to our “Super Reviewers”! Contact us to learn more about this opportunity.)

How is the pilot year different?

During the pilot year, registration and use will be free. However, we are experimenting with different formats and practices, and may transfer to a paid membership-based registration after the pilot year. It is an opportunity to participate in crowd-creating this resource.

We are also initially promoting GrantAdvisor in just two states, California and Minnesota. Within each state, we are starting with a limited number of funders. We anticipate expanding to more foundations and more states over time.

I'm interested in helping GrantAdvisor. How can I help?

Woo-hooo! Fantastic! You can help GrantAdvisor by spreading the word and by writing reviews based on your own experiences with funders. We are also recruiting Super Reviewers; if interested, email [email protected]

Do I need permission to post one of your reviews on my website?

There is no need to ask for permission to quote from our site. Simply use attribution "GrantAdvisor.org User Review".

Reviewer Questions

Is registration required?

While registration is not required in order to post a review, you are encouraged to register so that you can view responses from funders, access your past comments, and post responses of your own. Registering on GrantAdvisor is free and easy to do. After answering a few quick questions, you will be assigned a randomized, anonymous username, which will be displayed next to each of your reviews and comments.

How do I share my experience about a funder?

Glad you asked! It's easy.

There are two ways to post your review: (1) start on the home page and choose “Write a Review” or (2) visit a funder profile and click “Write a Review.” Both of these options will guide you to a review form. Please note that contents of your review may not show up immediately: an individual funder must receive a total of 5 reviews before aggregated data/charts show up.

Who will read my review?

Anybody visiting the site can read your review on the funder’s profile page. Your review can help prospective applicants learn more about the funder.

Are there restrictions on what can be posted?

No slander, abuse, advertising, etc. We have outlined our full Community Guidelines in the Terms and Conditions. We ask that reviewers not mention staff members by name and refrain from using language that is threatening, slanderous, discriminatory, or that contains spam.

Can I share my experiences with a funder more than once?

Yes. If you have registered on GrantAdvisor, then you can go back and edit the review you have already posted, or even post a new one on the same funder, if for example, you receive another grant from the same funder.

Funder Questions

What does a Funder Profile look like?

Once a funder receives 5 reviews, its profile will appear publicly and look like this.

I am already listed on GrantAdvisor. How did this happen and what does it mean?

Congratulations, people are interested in your philanthropy! A funder’s profile is made public when a review has been submitted about them. We try our best to notify the funder when a review is received and encourage them to appoint a Key Contact who can register on GrantAdvisor and respond to reviews on behalf of the funder.

Is GrantAdvisor overly critical of funders?

Most of the reviews on GrantAdvisor are positive. During our testing phase, we found that over two-thirds of survey responses were favorable, emphasizing how the funder has made a positive impact on the community and fostered good relationships with grantees, grant applicants, or other partners.

We believe that this trend will continue, with funders receiving mostly positive feedback. These compliments and praises can be used as testimonials for your foundation both internally and externally. To read more about how GrantAdvisor can be an asset to funders, see the article written by two foundation executives here.

Will you take down a negative review that is posted about my organization?

We understand the importance of your reputation to you and to your organization. GrantAdvisor provides an open forum for discussion about nonprofits and philanthropy. As such, we do not, as a policy, remove user-written reviews.

However, we allow you to provide an official response to any comments that are posted about your organization. (Use of the :-P emoticon is entirely up to you.) You can also contact us with any specific questions here and our Community Advisory Board will address your question or complaint on a case-by-case basis..

Can I encourage people who know our organization to share their experience?

Yes, by all means get out the vote, and ask your fans to toot your horn! You can (and should!) encourage nonprofits you have interacted with -- your applicants, former or current grantees, and any other community partners -- to share their stories.

Here are several ways to encourage reviews:

  • Send an email to applicants and grantees
  • Post to your Facebook status
  • Tweet out a link asking people to post reviews
  • Post a link in a prominent place on your website
  • Put a link in your email newsletter asking people to post reviews

Why should I invite people to review my foundation or corporate funding program?

The odds are good that you’ve read a review or two before making a major purchase. For nonprofits, each grant application can be a major time commitment. The better educated they are about your organization, the better the experience will be for both sides.

User reviews have emerged as a regular source of information about products and services of all types. Numerous studies show that people value the opinions of fellow travelers, shoppers, and fundraisers over institutionally-produced sources of information.

Would you stay at a hotel with no TripAdvisor ratings? In this age of social media, there is also a risk that if you don't have any reviews, it will look like no one is willing to speak up about you.

We will also be collecting more general feedback, asking, for example, how a funder that addresses domestic violence is affecting that field. Therefore, funders will receive several different perspectives about how they are seen.

Does it cost anything to be listed on your site?

Having a GrantAdvisor account is free, having your foundation listed is free, reviewing is free, and reading is free. GrantAdvisor is a 501(c)(3) organization and receives no money for reviews.

For more about how GrantAdvisor can be beneficial to your foundation’s work and how to use it, see the following from Jessamyn Shams-Lau and Maya Winkelstein.

From a Funder’s Perspective


For more about how GrantAdvisor can be beneficial to your foundation’s work and how to use it, see the following from Jessamyn Shams-Lau and Maya Winkelstein.

For Foundations: How to use GrantAdvisor.org

By Jessamyn Shams-Lau, executive director of Peery Foundation, and Maya Winkelstein, executive director of the Open Road Alliance.

Are you a foundation? Are you wondering what GrantAdvisor.org means for your organization? If so, please read the below FAQs answered by foundation executives for our peers on the value of GrantAdvisor.org and how foundations can use this data to better achieve their philanthropic goals.

Why is GrantAdvisor.org useful/valuable for me as a funder?

Although designed with nonprofits in mind, GrantAdvisor.org is a valuable resource for foundations as well. Here are four reasons that GrantAdvisor.org is useful to your foundation.

1. Feedback: GrantAdvisor.org offers the opportunity to hear directly from your majority stakeholders (i.e. grantees). Listening to unfettered feedback from grantees can help funders build more efficient processes and more effective partnerships, which ultimately increases impact.

2. Benchmarking: With a common set of questions for every foundation, GrantAdvisor.org allows foundations to compare their reviews with those of their peers. This comparison can help foundations benchmark the effectiveness of their grantmaking practices. Moreover, rather than simply measuring what other foundations are doing, GrantAdvisor.org specifically allows you to assess and compare what works best for grantees. By focusing on the grantee experience, GrantAdvisor.org is the best source for feedback on what works and what doesn’t when it comes to your grantmaking operations.

3. Honest and Accurate Data. GrantAdvisor.org is the only feedback platform that offers aggregated, consistent data, which is not solicited by the funder themselves. When foundations directly solicit feedback (even anonymously) respondents give different answers. Since GrantAdvisor.org collects reviews with or without funder prompting, this unsolicited feedback is the most honest feedback in the market. Most importantly, honest reviews mean accurate data.

4. Saving Time. Over time, we hope that the sharing of information via GrantAdvisor.org will help potential grantees better self-select for which foundations to approach and which are not great fits. This will result in a higher-quality pipeline for foundations, which saves everyone time and gets you closer to impact faster.

How can I use the data on GrantAdvisor.org to improve my organization and achieve my mission?

Set & Assess KPIs: Many foundations have Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that describe how they would ideally like to operate. However, it is difficult to get the external data to find out if you are living up to your internal goals. GrantAdvisor offers an accurate and honest data set of KPIs that foundations can use to set and assess their performance overtime. Access to this measurable data allows funders to examine their grantmaking processes and ensure that everyone’s time is being used in the most efficient way. Specifically, here are just some of the data points that GrantAdvisor collects:

  • What advice do you have for a colleague about the funder?
  • Compared to other funders, how accessible is this funder?
  • How successfully is the funder accomplishing its current philanthropic goals?
  • What is one thing that the funder does really well?
  • What advice do you have for the funder?
  • Is there a question that you would like the funder to answer?

Branding & Identity: The honesty and accuracy of GrantAdvisor data allows foundations to see how they are perceived within the greater philanthropic space. GrantAdvisor data can help you assess whether your organization is truly aligned with your own branding and identity goals. Do you consider yourself a responsive, respected member of your community? GrantAdvisor will let you know if you are.

Testimonials & Marketing Materials: Most of the reviews on GrantAdvisor are positive. These compliments and praises make for great testimonials on the impact that your foundation is having in its community and within your designated beneficiary population. These testimonials are valuable for both internal use (e.g., when recruiting new talent, sharing your impact with your board, celebrating staff successes) and external use (e.g., website, marketing materials, and sharing your story with your community).

Want to go deeper? Here are some suggestions from foundation executives on how to bring this data off the web and into your staff meetings and boardrooms.

  • Every six months, get together as a team to review your overview dashboards on GrantAdvisor.org as a discussion starter to hone your grantmaking strategy.
  • Think in advance about how to frame a negative review to your team as a starting point for a positive learning experience. Then pick a negative review and use it to kick-start a learning conversation about your grantmaking processes.
  • Convene a conversation with your most trusted grantees to discuss your GrantAdvisor data and solicit their input for what you could differently.
  • Share the GrantAdvisor data on “Top Descriptors for this Funder” with your staff and board to help build your brand. Compare these grantee perceptions against your foundation’s stated values and goals.
  • Use GrantAdvisor data to celebrate organizational success through sharing positive testimonials and reviews. For example, once a month share a new positive review with your program staff as congratulations on a job well done. Then bring these reviews into your boardroom to showcase the work of your team.

Why and how should I invite people to review my foundation?

You should invite people to review your foundation because more views means more honest and accurate data. More honest and accurate data means more opportunities for you to assess the performance of your foundation, improve your processes, and celebrate your successes. All of this will make you more efficient and effective in your pursuit impact and mission.

Here are four ways to spread the word about GrantAdvisor.org:

  • Include a link to GA at the end of your application form and/or final report form. Note that this is an opportunity to review not just your foundation, but everyone they’ve applied to.
  • Share the link and URL with your current grantee pool through whatever normal communications you produce (e.g., newsletters, annual report, and website).
  • Include a link to GA in your email block signature as an opportunity to review not just your foundation, but everyone they’ve applied to as well.
  • Talk to your foundation peers about GA, how you are using the data, and what it means to you.

Jessamyn Shams-Lau and Maya Winkelstein, foundation executives who serve on the National Leadership Panel for GrantAdvisor.org. To learn about their work, visit www.peeryfoundation.org and www.openroadalliance.org.