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Topical Resource Lists for Grantmakers

Discretionary Grants: A Topical Resource List

Discretionary funds are grant funds distributed at the discretion of one or more trustees, and they usually do not require prior approval by the full board of directors. These publications explore various aspects of this topic:

Council on Foundations. Fiscal Oversight. 2010 ed. Washington, DC: Council on Foundations, [2010].
March 2010 survey findings on independent and family, community, and public foundations' use of independent accountants, audit committees, conflict of interest policies, D&O liability insurance, discretionary grantmaking, and matching gifts.

Council on Foundations. Foundation Management Series. 11th ed. Washington, DC: Council on Foundations, 2004. 4 vols.
This publication presents the results of the 2002 Foundation Management Survey, in which 722 foundations participated. The data covers governance and statistics regarding administrative expenses, and relates to independent, community, family, and public grantmaking foundations. Coverage includes issues such as trustee compensation, discretionary grantmaking, and board selection.

"Discretionary Grantmaking." Essentials, (Spring 2010): p. 1, 3-4.
The author defines discretionary grantmaking, outlines reasons for it, and explains how foundations can develop a policy.

"Discretionary Grants: Encouraging Participation... Or Dividing Families?" Passages vol. 3 (September 2001) p. 1-8.

Draper, Lee. "Using Discretion." Foundation News & Commentary vol. 45 (January-February 2004) p. 30-7.
The author discusses the pros and cons of discretionary grants—those grants made outside a foundationís program areas. According to the Council on Foundations, about a quarter of foundations permit this type of giving by their board members. Do these grants foster conflict or enhance board involvement? In addition to the analysis, statistics about the prevalence of the practice are included.

"Four Foundation Polices to Consider." Essentials, (Summer 2009): p. 7-8.
Describes four areas for policy development: travel reimbursement, whistleblower protection, trustee compensation, and discretionary grantmaking.

Gast, Elaine. Policymaking Made Clear: Eleven Foundation Policies Your Board Should Consider. Washington, DC: Association of Small Foundations, 2006. (Primer Series)
Explains that foundation boards should consider policies related to attending fundraisers, board membership, conflicts of interest, discretionary grants, investments, personnel, records retention, expenditures, travel reimbursement, trustee compensation, and whistleblowing.

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