Cowell takes a collaborative, hands-on approach to grantmaking. We view the organizations and communities we fund as partners, and we work hard to build mutual trust and respect.
An iterative process
It may take several months for an initial inquiry to result in an invitation to submit a proposal, and it’s not uncommon for as much as a year to pass until a first grant is approved by our board of directors.
Our program officers typically work with an applicant organization through multiple drafts in an effort to create a sound project plan and grant proposal. However, the proposal process is usually shorter for current grantees seeking renewed support.
A team approach
Each inquiry and proposal is handled personally by one program officer, but the entire staff team works together to assess a community’s fit with Cowell’s grantmaking strategy.
In response to a promising inquiry from an organization in a community that’s new to Cowell, our staff visits as a team. We have found that this intensive, early engagement with the community leads to a mutually better-informed and more cooperative working relationship over time.
When a program officer finally recommends a proposal to the board of directors, another round of critical thinking occurs. Our board reviews each proposal with care. Not every proposal is approved, but those that are funded have our full understanding and support.
Once a grant-funded project is begun, the program officer remains involved as a thought-partner and ally. We regularly visit our grantees and closely review their progress reports. We consider proposals for renewed funding only if grantees achieve significant progress toward mutually agreed-upon objectives. In the case of a multi-year grant, the release of payments depends on evidence of progress. If objectives are not being met, grants may be cancelled.
Commitment over time
Our decision to invest in a community represents a mutual commitment that we hope will grow over time. We usually start small, with a grant in one program area. Then, seeing that aspirations, relationships and accomplishments are growing, we explore promising opportunities to make grants in other program areas. When progress is not forthcoming, however, or when collaboration is not possible, we may choose to discontinue funding in that community.
But we know that meaningful change takes time. In communities where we have made the deepest investments, we have stayed active for ten years or more and have seen multiple grantee organizations — and, most importantly, the children, youth and families they serve — achieve significant milestones of progress. In the last stages of our involvement, we help our grantees plan and position themselves for long-term sustainability, adaptability and accomplishment.