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Scan 2.0: New GrantCraft Guide Helps Funders Scan in the Digital Age

April 23, 2012

(Lisa Philp is vice president for strategic philanthropy at the Foundation Center and director of GrantCraft.)

Scanning_landscapeWhen funders want to do more than just make good grants, they often seek targets of opportunity -- places where their support could be especially influential, help develop a new direction or innovation, or align with others to accomplish more. Activities that accomplish these goals are what we mean by "scanning the landscape."

A new GrantCraft guide, Scanning the Landscape 2.0, is filled with examples of scans that have helped funders find a strategic direction, hear from key constituencies, understand emerging issues, map the funding environment, and synthesize information and find gaps. An update of a 2004 publication, the revised edition retains perennial wisdom from the earlier piece and, through fifteen new interviews with funders in the U.S. and Europe, explains how technology is making scanning faster and easier than ever before.

Whether formal or free-form, what scans have in common is a focus on gathering information from disparate sources, making sense of it, and learning from the information that comes in. Among the take-away points in the guide:

  • Think of scanning as a golden opportunity to pause and listen to key constituencies, but also those beyond your usual networks.
  • Check in with colleagues at various points along the way so they can help you see things you don't see and make connections. Consider teaming up with other funders to scan together.
  • Investigate and take advantage of technology tools such as searchable databases, news and research streams, and data visualizations to scan effectively.
  • Give yourself permission to scan continuously, even if you need to find ingenious ways to fit it into an overly busy schedule.

Scanning the Landscape 2.0 can be downloaded at no charge from the GrantCraft Web site. (New users will be asked to complete a free registration process.)

-- Lisa Philp

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A Berkeley professor I once met described the public policy process as "shoot, ready, aim." The same could be said of so much foundation grantmaking. Scanning before you figure out where to leap in, and continuing to scan once you have chosen your priorities is an essential of good grantmaking. Endowed institutions can act as echo chambers and it is too easy for grantmakers to develop tunnel vision. Scanning is the best remedy for that. And, as this guide points out, the tools and knowledge available in the digital age make scanning easier than ever.

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