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Review of The Chen Yet-Sen Family Foundation’s Grant-Making Program in China

A review of the Chen Yet-Sen Family Foundation (CYSFF)’s grant-making program in mainland China was conducted between March and May 2017 by an independent consultant. The program review seeks to learn from the experience and perspectives of former CYSFF grantees, and to help inform and shape the future mainland program. Through adopting an inductive approach, which is open-ended and exploratory in nature, the study reveals noteworthy findings, a few of which are highlighted below:

  • The uniqueness of the Foundation lies in its being an “engaged” grant-maker. In addition to providing grants as with all other grant-makers, the Foundation is concerned with the capacity building and growth of its grantees, which have mostly been composed of start-ups and growing grassroots NPOs. Such an engaged role has been highly appreciated by the grantee participants as it has not only benefitted the grantees’ organizations and projects in terms of important seed or early-stage funds, but also supported their growth through knowledge sharing and organization development.
  • In its grant-making, the Foundation has adopted a “rigorous first and flexible later” approach. Before awarding grants, the initial stage was rigorous when the Foundation was highly engaged in assessing needs, and identifying      prospective grantees. Such a process played a critical role in ensuring that the Foundation identified like-minded grantees that would share similar vision and mission as the Foundation. Once the grant is awarded, the approach of the Foundation will become flexible, providing the start-up or growing grantees time for trial and error. The Foundation acts as a facilitator, seeking to help the growth of grantees and beneficiaries through providing them an empowering environment that indirectly contributed to the growth of the grantees’ organizations and projects. Furthermore, the flexible approach is found to encourage the cultivation of an entrepreneurial and innovative spirit among the grantees, thereby indirectly contributing to the growth of social entrepreneurs.

Other key findings in the review report include the extent of knowledge the grantees had of the CYSFF reading concepts; how “relevance”, “sustainability” and “effectiveness” were considered and put into practice by the grantees in their projects; and challenges faced by the grantees, gaps in their projects and their needs. The report concludes with several recommendations for the Foundation in its future grant-making program in mainland China. Please read the executive summary for more details.