Before issuing a grant, a private foundation should conduct due diligence first, which often entails a site visit.
The benefits of having due diligence grantee evaluation procedures in place are significant, including confirming the grantee’s exempt status and if it’s a public charity. If it isn’t a public charity, there are additional procedures for the foundation to conduct expenditure responsibility.
When there’s a specific project under consideration, a site visit is a useful way to get direct information. Site visits are opportunities for a foundation’s board to get acquainted with the grantee’s staff and get familiarized with the program up for funding. In turn, the grantee can learn more about the foundation, and what they can expect during the grant-making process.
Plan Your Visit
Before you arrive, you’ll want to give the grantee a clear understanding of:
- The reason for the visit
- Timing of the visit and how long it will last
- Who you’d like to meet
- What you’d like to observe
It’s a good idea to create an agenda and get the grantee’s feedback about the schedule, expectations, and expected outcomes from the visit. The grantee may want to introduce all of its programs, so if there’s a specific project the foundation board wants to address, let the grantee know in advance so it can prepare its presentation.
Engaging the Right People
Meeting different members of the organization is key to understanding how programs are conducted. Consider inviting a wide range of the grantee’s organization to the site visit—board members, executive leadership, project staff, and recipients—and prepare questions you’d like to ask during the tour. These interactions are educational and beneficial to understand the grantee and can help reveal its passion and excitement for the organization.
Document your findings as soon as possible after the visit. Consider these questions:
- Were you impressed with the people you met?
- Who stood out?
- Does the grantee have the right personnel for the projects you’re interested in funding?
- What were their strengths and weaknesses?
- What’s the organization’s track record?
Direct interaction is the surest way to gain insight on a grantee’s culture, staff, and history. A well-planned site visit produces valuable information you can’t necessarily obtain through email, telephone conferences, or documentation. Whether seeking assurance in prospective grantees or looking for causes of concern, your foundation stands to gain from the experience.
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If you’d like more insight on the benefits of a site visit and best practices, contact your Moss Adams professional.