In the Spring of 2021 we reviewed 60 submissions, approximately half of which came through co-review and the other half were submitted directly through our website. (I have taken to calling the direct submissions “frontdoor” submissions.) 

We will leave the door open to these interesting and eclectic frontdoor submissions, but we have found that independently reviewing submissions for various programs through co-review allows us to develop a unique perspective on the field of philanthropy which we can then share in these updates. We piloted the co-review concept with SOLVE at MIT and have expanded to include accelerator programs, giving circles, and for the first time this Spring, Family Foundations.

Daniel’s Music Foundation

When Daniel’s Music Foundation (DMF) applied to Kettering Family Foundation, they were not selected for a grant. Fortunately though, Kettering has a co-review partnership with Unfunded List and Martika from DMF opted-in for our review. After receiving our feedback report, she scheduled a follow up discussion and I sat down with her for a conversation about her submission. During that conversation I was able to let her know that despite not being selected by Kettering, our evaluators thought the DMF proposal was so good that we have decided to make it the sole proposal featured in this update. 

Daniel’s Music Foundation is a non-profit organization that provides free music programs for people with disabilities from 3-year olds to adults in the NYC Area. At first glance, the most noteworthy thing about this proposal is how well written it is. Grant proposals, even great grant proposals, are not always well written. This proposal tells a great story and makes a compelling argument for funding. During my discussion with Martika, I learned that she has a background in journalism and that her brother is a program participant. That training and personal connection comes through in the proposal. Indeed, the organization is family run and everything has a strong personal and familial feel to it. It makes sense that they apply to Family Foundations to fund their family run charity.

The Selection Process

Unfunded List is not privy to Kettering’s selection process, but my best guess is that Daniel’s Music Foundation’s New York City location may have put it at a competitive disadvantage. Most of the proposals selected are from less populated areas of the country, I have since learned that many Kettering Family members live in these areas and have personal relationships with the local organizations they chose to fund this round. Again, the Unfunded List was not present at those meetings and we don’t know exactly why or how the Kettering Family chose how they chose. Our role was to provide helpful and candid feedback to everyone who asked for it. The good news for Daniel’s Music Foundation is that there are some donors who live in New York City

We have passed our feedback along to our partners at Kettering and I believe they will modify their process in the future. This being said, we are sympathetic to the challenges they face as a large family foundation whose many family members come from different generations and have a variety of sometimes diverging interests and opinions. While the Kettering Family Foundation, like many others, wants to continue to accept submissions in an open process, they also want to fund local institutions like the many local arts centers and family services organizations that our committee reviewed. Family Foundations like Kettering play an important part in keeping these local organizations open and providing services to their communities. 

See the Report

We do not question the selection process of family foundations, but we believe the work of Daniel’s Music Foundation is important and we are excited to highlight it in this update. We are also excited that, for the first time and with permission from the Daniel’s Music Foundation Board, we are able to share the full feedback report we put together for them. The opportunity to see one of our finished reports will hopefully give those curious about our process an idea of how we work.

If you have read this far, we hope that your interest in grantmaking will lead you to consider evaluating proposals with us. We are expecting a large batch of submissions this Fall, including another submission from Daniel’s Music Foundation. And if you have written a proposal of your own, please consider sending it to us so we can put together a report just for you.

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