Unfunded University 2019 took place in Duques Hall at George Washington University and involved a full day of key notes, classes and sessions. Dozens of students of all ages from all over the country graduated with their degrees in either nonprofit management or fundraising.
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 the best scoring proposals to our official Unfunded List and promoted it as far as we could. Seeing the potential from this first round we formed this not for profit, 501c3 organization dedicated to providing information about philanthropy to the social sector. We continue to review grant proposals twice a year but have expanded 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 is comprised of just under 200 members and we are featuring five organizations on the official Unfunded List
If you have a great idea and you have written it down then we WILL give you feedback.
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 (please note these have recently changed in order to be more inclusive):
All organizations or persons that answer yes to all 3 are encouraged to submit. If you’re unsure feel free to reach out and ask.
*Please note that the organizational budget could be well above 5 million but the specific project should be smaller. We will review projects from fiscally sponsored organizations, universities, etc. and will consider the project budget, not the organizational budget.
**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 full proposals.
There are no specific guidelines for formatting proposals, but in general, it has gone best thus far with proposals that have followed a format with clearly laid out objectives, rationale, logistics, and next steps for the organization. Our evaluators also like it when there is financial information included (ideally a project budget). As another general rule, shorter is better. 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 but only after a conversation.
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 to provide additional review and access to their network of investors and entrepreneurial mentors.
Here is an example of the outline of a recent proposal we reviewed. If you have never written down your idea and you want feedback from us then we suggest following this format. At the very least, it will be a helpful exercise and it will give us a document to review.
I. Executive & Organizational Summary (500 word limit)
II. Rationale or Theory of Change (250 word limit)
III. Call for Support (1000 word limit)
VII. Participants (250 word limit)
VIII. Key Components (1000 word limit)
If the proposal you want feedback on is missing any of these elements, you may submit addendum so we can consider your full project when we provide feedback from experts.
You can view the full proposals from all of the previous winning submissions by viewing the official unfunded list here: //unfundedlist.com/the-unfunded-list/
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). 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 from GW, MIT, Stanford, Duke, and Harvard Universities.
Regardless of the 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. You can learn more about our evaluation committee members by following this link: //unfundedlist.com/about-us/
We do not provide direct funding of proposals.
Instead, every applicant 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 of proposals. Additionally, it is not uncommon for reviewers to follow up with organizations directly in order to become more involved a supporters, advisors, donors, etc.
While there is no guarantee we will connect you with anyone other than the evaluators who review your proposal we do sometimes encourage our philanthropic friends to consider proposals we review. Depending on the contents of your proposal we may suggest programs to apply to or make direct connections to potential funders. We have a growing network of funders and grant-makers interested in giving special preference to the vetted proposals we send them. In the past we connected the organization Simprints with the WeWork Creator Awards and they won first prize. This past round we nominated Global Press Institute for the prestigious Skoll Award.
In addition, we actively promote high-scoring organizations through social media, blog posts, and other channels and also promote all of our winning organizations in the lead up to and during Giving Tuesday.
We estimate that we have created well over $2,000,000 in new funding opportunities for organizations that have applied to us as well as dozens of valuable connections and introductions.
There is a strong correlation between Unfunded List honorees and increased funding, growth, and recognition. Think of the Unfunded List as a “temperature gauge” for the strength of your organization. The stronger your rating, the better position you are to grow and succeed as an organization, and if you have room for improvement, our feedback will help better position you for funding in the future.
One of our first applicants, Accountability Lab, has seen their budget grow from $400k to almost $2 million and the Director of their Mali program received one of the first Obama Fellowships. Another Unfunded List honoree, Simprints, recently applied to and won first prize for the WeWork Creator Awards in London on the recommendation of the Unfunded List evaluation Committee and won $360,000. From last round, which was just completed, one of our applicants SoaPen received a prestigious Halcyon Fellowship and RespectAbility, a current honoree, received a $60,000 grant from the New York Women’s Foundation after incorporating our feedback into their appeal.
The Unfunded List operates with the generous support of our board of directors, a handful of individual family foundations and the MacArthur Foundation. We also charge $100 per application submitted to our program.
Unfunded List is a 501c3 organization. You can support our work with a tax deductible gift here: //unfundedlist.com/donations/
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 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.
Have a question not answered above? Please email our founder Dave at [email protected] and he will be happy to answer your questions.