Navigating the World of Impact Donations:
What Donors Really Want

In the evolving landscape of philanthropy, impact donors are emerging as pivotal figures. These are the individuals and organizations committed to funding projects that promise substantial social, environmental, or economic changes. But what exactly are these donors looking for in potential grantees? Understanding their expectations is key prior to engaging, building a strong relationship and eventually crafting a successful application.

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1. Defining Your Envisioned Impact Clearly

Impact donors are driven by results. They want to know precisely what your project aims to achieve and how it will make a difference. Therefore, it is necessary to clearly capture the ultimate goal of your organization in an impact statement.

A good impact statement:

  • Reflects the goal on a high scale level;
  • is developed (or at least validated) with the entire organization;
  • consists of not more than 15 words;
  • and is measurable.

Some organizations have their impact statement included in a mission statement, but many mission statements are action-oriented instead of goal-oriented and therefore different than impact statements.

If you want to learn more about this, download our free impact handbook or plan an impact session with one of our impact consultants!

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2. Setting Measurable Objectives

To gauge success, donors need concrete, quantifiable goals. Define specific targets or milestones that you can track and report on, demonstrating the effectiveness of your work. At the same time, this data provides opportunities for your organization to increase its impact and communicate to your donors how you are constantly learning how to make more impact.

Impact measurement goes beyond your existing program-level output- and outcome-level indicators and is at an organizational level. This can be a complicated process as it is sometimes difficult to formulate your ultimate goal in something measurable. Therefore, it can be insightful to look at indicators that other organizations use. You can also take inspiration from the SDGs and their indicators.

As impact measurement is a complicated, lengthy and expensive process it is worth looking into what impact donors fund the development of such indicators on a programmatic or even organizational level!

One donor that comes up frequently in the donor research we do for our clients is the Global Innovation Fund (GIF), which invests in the development, rigorous testing, and scaling up of new services or policy reforms that are more cost-effective than current practice and targeted at improving the lives of the world’s poorest people.

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3. Grounding in Evidence

Any proposal you submit to an impact donor should be rooted in solid research or proven methodologies. Impact donors favor approaches that are backed by evidence demonstrating their potential for success.

In close partnership with the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth and The Rockefeller Foundation, is a platform for partnerships to build the field of data science for social impact and works in partnership with academia, public, and private organizations.

If you do not have results from your own impact indicators yet, you can still provide indications of success by making comparisons with similar initiatives or by using proxy indicators.

Moreover, you need to plan for Monitoring and Evaluation. Regularly tracking progress against defined metrics allows both you and the donor to see the real-time impact of the project.


4. Ensuring Sustainability and
Increasing Embracing Innovation

Long-term change is the name of the game. Show how your project will continue to deliver results even after the initial funding period is over.

With that, do not be afraid to present innovative solutions that can make a large impact over time. Especially in certain sectors, donors are on the lookout for novel approaches to age-old problems.

Focusing on education, health, climate change, and gender equality, the Fund for Innovation in Development allows innovators from all types of organizations to test new ideas, experiment and show what works based on proven scientific evaluation approaches. They also fund scaling of the most effective solutions with the most positive and lasting impact.

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5. Aligning with Donor’s Interests

Although some impact donors fund a wide variety of projects and organizations, most will still focus on a particular social issue or a geographic region. When researching donors, make sure you target donors whose specific interest areas align with the ones from your organization. It is important to do this at an early stage as you do not want to change your project or program to match the criteria of your donor.

However, without changing your projects or programs, with a clearly defined impact statement and measurable indicators, it becomes easier to see where you can tweak your story to match a wider variety of donors. 

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Securing funding from impact donors usually requires a specific approach to researching donors, building a relationship and writing proposals. It is about having your impact goal and ambitions clear, demonstrating measurable impact, and being able to communicate this to the right donors.

By doing this, you not only tap into the expanding pool of funding within the international development sector but also optimize the effectiveness of the resources you acquire, leading to more substantial and meaningful impacts.

Do you want to learn more how to become impact driven? Make sure you download our FREE Impact Handbook from our website. And contact our impact consultant Ilse Meijer to plan in an impact session.



Driven by her interest for economics and data-collection and -sharing, Ilse led the very first HVFC Trends Research on Fundraising whose findings have already benefited hundreds of professionals worldwide.

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