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FAQs for Proposal Authors

Probably. If you have written down your social change idea then we would be happy to review it for you and give you helpful and candid advice from experts in relevant sectors. If you send us written materials related to your idea, we will review them.

To double check that your idea is a fit for our evaluation committee to review, the Unfunded List currently has three simple questions for determining eligibility:

Do you have a written description of your program like a grant proposal, marketing deck, letter of inquiry, or other document describing your idea/organization?

Are you interested in receiving helpful and candid feedback on your organizational, fundraising, and other philanthropic efforts from the experts on Unfunded List’s evaluation committee?

All organizations or persons that answer yes to both are encouraged to submit. Even if you have been funded before we would love to help you keep going by providing fresh feedback to your idea. If you’re unsure how we can help, feel free to reach out and ask.

Please note that we no longer consider budget size to determine eligibility. We will review projects of any budget size or fundraising history. Organizations and programs with large budgets need feedback too. We would be happy to help if you run such a program (in the past we have reviewed proposals for a larger more established NGOs). We ask that you contact us before submitting if your budget is over 5 million.



We have designed a program that can review any proposal in any format. We have reviewed everything from one page concept notes to 80-page proposals.

There are no specific guidelines for formatting proposals, but in general, it goes best with proposals that follow a format with clearly laid out objectives, rationale, logistics, and next steps for the organization or project. Our evaluators also like it when there is financial information included (ideally a project budget).  The ideal proposal length is 4 to 6 pages but we will review anything up to 20 pages in length. Happy to consider longer proposals, or peculiar formats, but only after a conversation. 


Please do contact us directly with any specific eligibility questions.


Most of what we review are one time proposals that were submitted to specific funders. However, we can and will review more dynamic documents like executive summaries or business plans. For formal business plans from for-profit entities, we partner with Mentor Capital Network and a number of investment focused-networks to provide additional review and access to their network of investors and entrepreneurial mentors.

Yes.

Our evaluation committee has a vast array of experience working for and with funding organizations of all sizes. A short, but incomplete, list of organizations where committee members work, have previously worked, or have otherwise been involved includes: the Knight Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, The Slingshot Fund, The Aspen Institute, Australia’s Greater Charitable Foundation, the Qatar Foundation, the Sehgal Foundation, the Pew Charitable Trusts, the White House, the Skoll Award, Echoing Green, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The committee includes experts familiar with the world of international development funding (DFID, USAID, AusAID, the U.S. State Department, National Science Foundation (NSF)).

We also have evaluators who are experienced securing government grants at the local, state and federal level as well as evaluators with experience in corporate grant-making/partnerships. We even have international evaluators from over a dozen countries and almost every continent. Our academic chops are considerable as well. We partner with George Washington University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology and we have evaluation committee members on the faculty at Stanford, Duke, and Harvard Universities.

Regardless of the change you are looking to make or the funding institution you are targeting we have evaluators who can help.

We spend a lot of effort building an evaluation committee with a breadth of experience and perspective and we are confident that we can be supportive of any format submitted to any funder. Your proposal will receive the highest quality evaluation to prepare you for success with future submissions to funding organizations. 

We do not provide direct funding of proposals.

Our experience has shown that there is a strong correlation between having a proposal reviewed by Unfunded List and increased funding, growth, and recognition. Organizations need helpful and candid feedback to succeed with their grant proposals. Unfortunately, that feedback can be harder to come by than funding. Unfunded List makes it easy for you to have a proposal read and considered by real professionals with experience in the field. That is why our past applicants have repeatedly called our service an “incredible resource.”

One of our first applicants, Accountability Lab, has seen their budget grow from $400k to several million and the Director of their Mali program received one of the first Obama Fellowships. Another Unfunded List honoree, Simprints, applied for the WeWork Creator Awards in London on the recommendation of the Unfunded List evaluation committee and won the first prize of $360,000. They have since won millions in prizes, crediting Unfunded List for their success. Recently, Mary’s Center, a health center in Washington DC, won a $250,000 grant from healthcare company Cigna to fund a child nutrition program, the first of its kind in the District.

We have helped a disability inclusion organization win their first funding from the New York Women’s Foundation and an organization focused on eating disorders to win a six-figure grant from a national foundation. We have reviewed over 500 proposals, delivering helpful and candid feedback to each one. Organizations of all sizes find value in our approach, which is why many of them come back to us round after round.

The Unfunded List operates with the generous support of our board of directors, and a handful of individual family foundations. We have received grants from the MacArthur Foundation, the Kettering Family Foundation, the Tecovas Foundation and others. We also charge $100 per application submitted to our program and we collect other fees related to co-review partnerships.

Unfunded List is a 501c3 organization. You can support our work with a tax deductible gift here: Donate to Unfunded List

Finding a dozen relevant experts to read and review a grant proposal takes time and effort and money. It costs us about $1,000 per proposal review and our funders cover the majority of the costs of the program. In consideration, we do ask a small application fee to help cover these overhead costs and to ensure that we can continue to provide high quality feedback to unfunded ideas. The $100 fee also ensures our applicants have some skin in the game and keeps the pool of proposals we receive at a manageable size. From experience, we have found that the fee leads to higher quality submissions.

If the $100 fee is an absolute impossibility for you and the only hurdle to submitting a proposal please contact us and we will work it out.

This is a one-time fee. If you pay it once then you are eligible to submit to us every round without the fee. Every round we reach out to past applicants with a special link to submit for free.

Have a question not answered above? Please email our founder Dave at [email protected] and he will be happy to answer your questions.



FAQs for Evaluators

Unfunded List is a nonprofit formed in 2015 to educate the public about philanthropy and the philanthropic process.  We focus most of our work on first-time grant proposal writers as well as on philanthropists themselves. If you are writing proposals, we will review them. If you are funding proposals, we will co-review with you. If you want to review proposals, we will assign you some.

The Unfunded List began in 2015 when a handful of volunteers asked social entrepreneurs around the world to send us their best unfunded grant proposals.  An expert volunteer evaluation committee read these proposals and every applicant received helpful and candid feedback. We published some of the most interesting proposals to our official Unfunded List and promoted this list as widely  as we could. We also delivered helpful and candid feedback to every single applicant.

Seeing the potential from this first round, we formed our not-for-profit 501c3 organization dedicated to providing information about philanthropy to the social sector. While we continue to review grant proposals twice a year, we have expanded our mission to provide comprehensive feedback to anyone doing social impact projects – just send us whatever written materials you have that best describe your organization and our experts will take a look.  Currently, our evaluation committee has over 800 members from all over the world.

We do not provide direct funding of proposals., but we believe feedback can be just as valuable (and sometimes harder to find) than funding.

Everyone who submits a proposal to us is guaranteed a comprehensive feedback report and receives equal attention from our committee. Whenever possible, we connect proposals with potential funders and this often results in the funding.. Additionally, it is not uncommon for our reviewers to follow up with organizations directly in order to become more involved as supporters, advisors, donors, etc.

Professional consultants who perform this service often charge five figures or more. Unfunded List believes that good advice should be for everyone, not just for those who can afford it.

The Unfunded List operates with the generous support of our board of directors, donations from our evaluators, and some grants from grantmakers. We also host events, produce content, and  charge $100 per application submitted to our program. This fee is usually waived with co-review opt-ins.

Unfunded List is a 501c3 organization. You can support our work with a tax deductible gift here: Donate to Unfunded List

Our experience has shown that there is a strong correlation between having a proposal reviewed by Unfunded List and increased funding, growth, and recognition. Organizations need helpful and candid feedback to succeed with their grant proposals. Unfortunately, that feedback can be harder to come by than funding. Unfunded List makes it easy for you to have a proposal read and considered by real professionals with experience in the field. That is why our past applicants have repeatedly called our service an “incredible resource.”

One of our first applicants, Accountability Lab, has seen their budget grow from $400k to several million and the Director of their Mali program received one of the first Obama Fellowships. Another Unfunded List honoree, Simprints, applied for the WeWork Creator Awards in London on the recommendation of the Unfunded List evaluation committee and won the first prize of $360,000. They have since won millions in prizes, crediting Unfunded List for their success. Recently, Mary’s Center, a health center in Washington DC, won a $250,000 grant from healthcare company Cigna to fund a child nutrition program, the first of its kind in the District.

We have helped a disability inclusion organization win their first funding from the New York Women’s Foundation and an organization focused on eating disorders to win a six-figure grant from a national foundation. We have reviewed over 700 proposals, delivering helpful and candid feedback to each one. Organizations of all sizes find value in our approach, which is why many of them come back to us round after round.

Unfunded List reviews hundreds of proposals every year. The proposals come from all over the world and cover nearly every conceivable topic. To ensure that we can provide the most helpful and candid advice to each proposal, we are constantly recruiting members to our evaluation committee. We currently have over 800 evaluators in our pool with a wide variety of experience and interests. We believe all perspectives are important and we regularly seek to add to the diversity of the committee. Our members include program officers at grant-making institutions, members of family foundations, founders of giving circles, directors of notable prizes and competitions, fundraising consultants, communications professionals, engineers, doctors, lawyers, as well as formerly homeless and incarcerated evaluators, LGBTQIA members, people from every continent and over 50 countries and, at last count, 9 different faith traditions.


We also actively recruit our applicants to become reviewers. Approximately one-fifth of the committee has also been reviewed by us and most reports include someone who is also fundraising or has experience fundraising on the same issue or topic.


Yes. Everyone lives in the world and feels its effects. Your perspective has value and we would love to share it with social entrepreneurs and nonprofit founders trying to make the world a better place.

Our committee already has dozens of experienced grantwriters as well as professional philanthropists. Those backgrounds are always welcome but we want to include as many perspectives as we can in each report.

If you have no experience whatsoever in philanthropy this is a great way to gain some. You can check out our  library of resources, attend our free events, or contact us for a quick one-on-one consultation.

One hour on average. Some of our speedier evaluators can review a proposal in under half an hour. Others do deeper research and might spend a few hours on their reviews. 

We encourage our evaluators to take as much time as they need. Just please hit our deadlines and give honest feedback to the proposals you have been assigned.

You can tell us your preferences and we will do our best to match you with proposals that fit your interests and expertise. The more you tell us, the better we are at matching. SInce we review several hundred proposals a year covering a breadth of topics, we are usually able to come up with interesting matches. This is why we have such a high approval and return rate with our committee.

Since 2015, we have reviewed nearly 1,000 proposals covering nearly every conceivable topic (and even some inconceivable topics!) from all over the globe. Common topics are education (both US and international), healthcare (again both US and international), conservation issues, civic advocacy issues, anti-racism efforts, the arts, disability inclusion, youth service programs, homelessness and food security programs, and socially-focused businesses.

Co-review is when we partner with a grantmaker and offer our independent review to their applicants.

There are two ways to submit a proposal to Unfunded List. The first is through our website, which anyone in the world can do any time of year. We will review whatever is submitted to us.

The majority of the proposals we review come through co-review partnerships with grantmakers. Our grantmaker partners conduct their philanthropy according to their own procedures and our committee simultaneously reviews the same submissions. Applicants are given the chance to opt-in and request feedback from us and our staff aligns the timelines and reports with our partners. Since we began co-reviewing, the number of proposals we review each year has increased from dozens of submissions to hundreds.

Our main co-review partners are the SOLVE program at MIT, the Elevate Prize, Circle for Justice Innovations, Next Gen Giving Circle, Kettering Family Foundation, OpenGov HUB, Mentor Capital Network, and a few others. Such a diverse group of inclusive grantmakers ensures that we will have a wide variety of interesting proposals to review every round.

We have written a lot about co-review. Read more:

Co-Reviewing with MIT for a More Inclusive Philanthropy

Grantmakers Guide to Co-Reviewing with Unfunded List

Co-Review Throughout History

No. Evaluators are volunteers who support the field of philanthropy and give a few hours of their time a few times a year to advise grant proposal writers and lend their experience, perspective, and connections to social sector actors who are looking for advice and support. Over 90% of our evaluators enjoy their experience and most return to review again. About 10% of evaluators make donations to support our operations and only evaluators are eligible to join our board of directors and committees.

While we do not directly compensate evaluators, we recognize that many of them are for hire. Evaluators are given the opportunity to offer a follow-up conversation as part of the review process and if the reviewed group agrees we can make that connection. We have helped forge many productive relationships in this way, including paid consultancy work, grants, partnerships, and more. 



Please fill out this convenient form: https://www.unfundedlist.com/join-the-committee/

Have a question not answered above? Please email our founder Dave at [email protected] and he will be happy to answer your questions.



FAQs for Grant-makers

Grantmakers interested in transparency and progress who want to increase their impact, improve the efficiency of their programs while building a more inclusive pool of grantees can partner with Unfunded List to give their applicants the opportunity to receive a complementary, helpful, and candid feedback report from the Unfunded List’s Evaluation Committee.

During co-review with Unfunded List, a grantmaker/challenge/or other competition that receives submissions conducts their process as they normally would. They search for the next great solutions, award funds, and support the winning grantees. Meanwhile, Unfunded List focuses their support on everyone else who applied. Each opt-in receives one of our helpful and candid feedback reports including reviews from multiple evaluators as well as the opportunity to have a report discussion with Unfunded List Staff. We have written a lot about co-review. Read more below:

Co-Reviewing with MIT for a More Inclusive Philanthropy

Grantmakers Guide to Co-Reviewing with Unfunded List

Co-Review Throughout History

 

Our independent evaluation committee offers our review to all of the applicants of our partner program. Once a group opts in, we do not choose winners, but instead we provide helpful and candid feedback and suggestions for everyone, along with recommendations and feedback for the grantmaker after we are done.

Each co-review partnership is unique. But they always require staff time and resources. The cost is generally $30,000 for us to offer the opt-in to a batch of 500 proposals. We consider the size of the grantmaker’s endowment and a variety of other factors when quoting a price. 

With each co-review partnership we will work to develop a comprehensive memo of understanding (MOU) and will consider all the ways a partnership can provide value to our program.



Unfunded List is a 501c3 not-for-profit based in Washington, DC and founded in 2015. Our mission is to educate the public about philanthropy. Working with grantmakers on co-review allows us to develop the reviewing skills of our evaluation committee while providing useful and candid feedback to proposal authors. We have conducted co-review partnerships with SOLVE at MIT, The Elevate Prize, Kettering Family Philanthropies, Circle for Justice Innovations Fund, Mentor Capital Network, The Share Award, and several others.

Since our founding, we have reviewed proposals submitted to nearly every major grantmaker including The MacArthur Foundation, The Ford Foundation, The W.K. Kellogg Foundation, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Open Society Initiative, USAID, DFID, NIH, NSF, the US State Department and many others.

All kinds. We have over 800 evaluators in our pool from all walks of life. We offer regular training sessions in philanthropy and make ourselves evaluators for conversations and zoom calls with our evaluators during their review. We encourage our evaluators to rely on their own experience and perspectives.

The professional grant writers on our committee will comment on things like formatting, phrasing, funder fit, and impact metrics. Issue experts will focus on impact and implementation as well as the accuracy of claims. Editors tend to focus on spelling and grammar. Social entrepreneurs and founders offer advice from a peer perspective while our more senior, retired evaluators focus on mentorship and advice. Some of our funders consider proposals for their own philanthropy and the connectors on our committee think about who to apply to next. We do our best to include a multitude of perspectives in each report.

We have been co-reviewing for over three years now, but this is a newer (and exciting) aspect. As we evaluate a large batch of proposals all submitted to the same grantmaker, certain trends and comments begin to emerge. For instance, during our first year co-reviewing with The Elevate Prize, a large number of our evaluators noted in their review that the proposal was very long and that some of the questions were repetitive. We passed these notes along to The Elevate Prize staff and they shortened and focussed their application for the second year of their prize. When we co-reviewed with Kettering Family Foundation our evaluators noticed some confusing language in the RFP and had questions about geographic location. We were able to pass these notes on to Trustees and administrators at Kettering who are now discussing ways to address our comments.

As we continue to co-review with these groups, particularly with groups who are willing and able to make changes to their philanthropic process, we can continue to be helpful in guiding those changes.

We do not provide consulting services. We do partner with grantmakers in ways that can benefit their programs but when we do it is always and primarily in service of our mission to educate the public about philanthropy. The primary ways we partner with grantmakers are to conduct co-review partnerships and to produce content related to philanthropy education.

In particular, we do not provide wealth or fund management services, fundraising or resource development services (beyond proposal review), we do not fiscally sponsor and we do not provide PR or marketing services, nor legal nor accounting services.

We do have many excellent consultants who volunteer with us and would be happy to make recommendations if you are looking to hire someone.

FAQs about
"Unfunded List Presents..."

Unfunded List’s mission is to educate the public about philanthropy. In service of that mission we partner with NGOs and companies to produce educational content on the topic of philanthropy and the process of grantmaking. Our leadership team has backgrounds in both production and philanthropy.

We have partnered with a variety of organizations to produce philanthropic educational content including Blackbaud, the Circle for Justice Innovations, George Washington University, OpenGov HUB, Kettering Family Foundation, The Lookout (DC), SOLVE at MIT, The Nexus Summit, WeWork, the Chronicle of Philanthropy, and the United Nations Civil Society Conference.

We regularly produce events including everything from webinars to two-day in person summits to strategic retreats. We produce both live and animated videos, as well as podcasts. We also write articles, white papers, blog posts, and case studies as well as unique/customized resources for fundraisers and grantmakers.

Yes, you may. Thank you for asking.


EVENTS

The Evaluator Summit 2018 hosted by George Washington University.

Unfunded University hosted by George Washington University.

Unfunded in the Pines

Photo Booth at the United Nations Civil Society Conference

The Evaluator Summit 2020 sponsored by Kettering Family Foundation.

A Virtual Symposium for Inclusive Philanthropy hosted by The OpenGOV HUB.

WEBINARS AND PANELS

“Engaging Next Gen Peer Network” with the National Center for Family Philanthropy

“Navigating Relationships and Boundaries Around Family Wealth” at the Next Generation of Leaders Conference presented by Morgan Stanley

“Co-Review with Unfunded List For A More Inclusive Philanthropy” at the WeGive Summit 2020

“What Grantmakers Should Know about Grantee Readiness” with Blackbaud Foundation Solutions

“Meet The Grantmaker: Peter Williamson from Kettering Family Foundation” hosted by Circle for Justice Innovations

VIDEOS
Unfunded List launch video by Billy Buntin

“PitchCraft” with The Lookout

“Giving Stories” with Nexus Members

HOW TO SUBMIT YOUR PROPOSAL

HOW TO REVIEW

HOW WE MADE YOUR FEEDBACK REPORT

PODCASTS

#WineGrants

BeerGrants with MentorCapitalNetwork sponsored by Lagunitas.

Open Door Philanthropy Podcast LIVE at the Nexus US Summit.

Open Door Philanthropy Seasons 1-4

ARTICLES & WRITTEN RESOURCES

“Grant Proposal Rejected? Find Out Why” with Chronicle of Philanthropy

“Why Co-Reviewing Applicants Creates a More Inclusive Philanthropic Field” with MIT