Key Points

Rooted in business principles, philanthropic study, and reflective practice, this article examines the journey of the Marion I. & Henry J. Knott Foundation, a small family foundation established in 1977, toward a strategic grantmaking focus.

This article examines a foundation’s first step toward building a grantmaking strategy – finding an issue or problem to address – alongside a three-part model for creating choices that reflect donor intent, organizational talents and resources, and broader community needs.

The study adds to the body of knowledge about the value, process, and challenges of finding a strategic grantmaking focus, whether that focus is for all or simply one portion of a foundation’s giving portfolio. It might be of significant benefit to foundations that are programmatically broad, those trying to clarify or formalize the intent of their original donors, those with large multigenerational boards, and those questioning why, where, or how to begin.