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Real Cost Project Research Summary

Publication date: 
Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Real Cost Project is a joint statewide initiative of Northern California Grantmakers, Southern California Grantmakers and San Diego Grantmakers. The goal of the Real Cost Project is to increase the number of funders that provide real-cost funding and to build the skills and capacity of all those engaged in grantmaking, including foundations, corporations, individuals, and government.

The critical first step of the project was to collect information and baseline data on the spectrum of current funder and sector practices that relate to real cost funding. This research allowed for a more thorough conceptualization of real cost funding as well as an opportunity to understand existing challenges, gaps, and needs. Most importantly, the research set a foundation for how future discussion and trainings should be developed to suit the real needs of practitioners in the field.

From February to May 2015, research was conducted through qualitative methods, including an environmental scan of research and studies related to funding of overhead and one-on-one interviews with practitioners in the field statewide. Interviews were conducted with Board Members, Executive Directors, and Program Officers, representing a variety of funder types, including corporate foundations, family foundations, community foundations, giving networks, public endowments and individual donors. Overall, the research focused on the following primary areas of interest:

• Grantmaker definitions of overhead and real cost funding
• Defined policies and practices around overhead and real cost funding
• Methods and tactics of engagement between nonprofits and funders
• Nonprofit infrastructure evaluation
• Biases that knowingly or unknowingly influence funding decisions
• Organizational barriers and challenges which limit or prevent real cost funding adoption
• Best practices to be modeled and adopted

The research yielded several major findings, revealed common practices in the field and pinpointed areas for skill building and training among the grantmaking community.

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