Through fruitful collaboration, the foundation and grantees together develop new knowledge and insights to help solve important problems in our areas of interest.

Our grantees generally fall into one of three categories:

The organizations we fund to develop and test possible solutions to important public problems;
The researchers whom we commission to contribute to the field's knowledge and to help evaluate what is and is not working; and
The organizations that help us get both issues and solutions before policymakers, field leaders and those who can otherwise influence policy and practice.

We do not fund over-the-transom requests for grants. Instead, we determine which nonprofits or governmental bodies (such as school districts) might have the interest in and ability to work with us to carry out efforts aimed at answering important field questions. We invite them to submit proposals for how they would do the work and then choose grantees based on our assessment of their proposals.

For Grantees, a Different Experience

Because Wallace is focused on building credible, useful knowledge, not just funding worthy projects, grantees—especially those who help Wallace develop and test solutions—may find that working with Wallace is different from working with other foundations.

For one thing, the work our grantees undertake typically requires careful, detailed planning, the cooperation of many institutions and time to unfold and be properly assessed. Wallace’s grants are, therefore, generally larger and of longer duration than grants issued by similar foundations: an average size of about $400,000 and 2.8 years compared with about $150,000 and 2.3 years at a number of Wallace’s peer foundations.

For another, because we turn to our grantees to help us gather credible evidence about why a particular idea or practice was more successful or less so, we ask them to provide data and progress reports over the life of the grant. In many cases, we also ask them to take part in formal research and evaluation of their efforts.

In addition, we commonly ask grantees to participate in what we call "professional learning communities," periodic gatherings—virtual or in person—where they discuss experiences and problems they are encountering in their Wallace-funded work, exchange ideas and meet and learn from experts in their fields. We also often provide technical assistance to grantees, that is, the guidance of consultants or others who can help grantees carry out tasks that may be unfamiliar to them, such as figuring out the best way to measure the progress of their endeavors.

Finally, we place a particularly high premium on regular communication and candid assessment of ongoing work. This can help grantee organizations and Wallace staff members identify areas that are working well or that call for course corrections on both sides. To get an idea of this approach, see this article by Independent Sector exploring how Wallace and one grantee built the trust needed to openly discuss and solve problems. Independent Sector is a coalition of charities and philanthropies.