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Grantmaking Criteria

We look for scalable solutions and game-changing organizations. We fund nonprofit organizations that demonstrate strong potential for broad and profound impact in the lives of those they serve. We use the following criteria to identify organizations that show potential alignment with RTNF's mission and values. We also ask prospective applicants to review the information here before beginning an application.

1. Ability to demonstrate impact through rigorous data

We seek to fund programs that are evidence-based, so we look for specific, clear, and rigorous evidence of program impact in primary application materials. We believe that organizations should be both studying and contributing to peer-reviewed field research whenever possible. Compelling primary applications therefore include:

  • Specific references to peer-reviewed program design research that informs the program model and the specific outcomes suggested by the program in those studies;

  • Outcomes/KPIs and basic information about internal evaluation methods used (e.g., type of evaluation design, benchmark/counterfactual data, validity issues that are considered, etc.); and/or

  • Information about current or past independent, external evaluations of the program or model (including methods used and specific results seen).​​​

We keep our application process as open as possible because we believe that every organization is deserving of consideration. All 501(c)3 organizations are welcome to submit an application; no invitation is needed to apply for RTNF funding. 

2. Information about the "cost per impact"

While it is not possible to conclusively pinpoint the cost per outcome, we at least like to see that organizations are thinking critically about the principle behind this criteria and can even engage in meaningful discussion about what the estimated cost per impact or social return on investment might be. We recognize that across some populations, geographies, and interventions, profound, positive outcomes may be expensive to achieve. We are sensitive to that, but we still feel it is important that organizations can discuss this issue critically while seeking to identify the program elements that are really driving impact. The strongest applications are also clear about the assumptions that underpin their stated impact.

3. Strategic Plan

Proposals should be thoroughly planned. Organizations should know where they want to be in 3-5 years and should have the key steps planned to get there, as well as enough momentum to do so. We are particularly drawn to proposals that have strong scaling potential or aim to improve the way systems function in audacious, game-changing ways. Proposals should always align with the applicant's long-term strategic plan and goals, rather than being overly influenced by funders. We also look for organizations who cite improvement, and not simply growth, as top strategic priorities. Strategic plans should not only be aspirational, but include steps and needed resources and capacity-building plans to achieve goals. Finally, RTNF finds itself best suited to fund programs and organizations that have a relatively simple program model, due to our staff capacity limitations.

4. Leadership

We look for leaders who are not only passionate, but also capable and motivated to accomplish their goals, and respectful of their staff and program participants. Leaders should be experts in their respective fields, and should surround themselves with talented and qualified staff, both at the key leadership level (board and staff) and in mid-management. We also deeply value leaders and applicants that communicate clearly, concisely, and openly. We strive to be open and direct, and we look to partner with leaders who share that value. Finally, we prefer to support organizations that preserve and defend participants' autonomy and dignity,  demonstrating that participant voices are valued and effective feedback loops are in place throughout the organization.

5. Financial Health and Outlook

Organizations should demonstrate financial and environmental sustainability.

  • Applicants should demonstrate that they will not become reliant on RTNF funding in the future and provide summary information that provides a high level picture of the financial situation and outlook. This includes information about as many of the following areas as possible: financial sustainability, projections, funding commitments,​ examples of strategic supporters, funder renewal rates, % of project funding being requested from RTNF, revenue trends, diversification of revenue sources, increasing program efficiency, and any other information that can provide a detailed snapshot of financial health and outlook. Tables and bullet points are welcome.

  • Partners should not expect to be awarded grants outside of the current agreement period. Applicants are responsible to design grant requests to mitigate risk to organization in the event that a grant is awarded but not renewed.​

We encourage applicants to include the above information in your primary application materials. You can see how these criteria are used when evaluating applications in our Primary Application Rubric below.

Applicants that Operate Internationally

In addition to the general criteria listed above, organizations operating outside of the US should also demonstrate that they value the autonomy and dignity of those they work with and serve. Some ways to demonstrate this are listed below:

  1. Organizations should preserve or defend participants' self-determination, autonomy, and dignity

  2. Program participants should be seen and treated as participants or customers with the best understanding of their needs and context, not passive beneficiaries

  3. Ideas should come from the ground, not from outsiders

  4. There should be local representation on the board and among senior leadership

  5. Programs and solutions should be market-based at least in the sense that there is real demand for them

  6. Programs and solutions should avoid market distorting/damaging subsidies

  7. There may be certain goods or outcomes that we can assume are universally desired, even across cultural boundaries (e.g., health, opportunity, etc.)

See our blog post about self-determination.

 Photo Credit: Alex Azabache 
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