We talked with funders working in the US, Europe, and internationally about when, why, and how it's useful to scan the landscape for new ideas and new directions. This updated edition of a 2004 GrantCraft guide reflects key changes in philanthropy, from the rise of social media to a growing tendency to scan continuously for changes and opportunities.
What's in the Guide?
- What to ask, and how to ask it
- Using data visualization for your learning
- Online tools for scanning
- What is Scanning? To understand how your efforts fit within a wider field of activity, it's often useful to look at the field as a whole to see where the opportunities, needs, and gaps are. That's what we mean by "scanning." A scan can help you adjust to a new position, learn a new field, take a fresh look at grants you've already made, keep current with larger trends, or chart a course for the future.
- Different Scans for Different Needs: Funders use scans for many reasons. Scans don't have to be long and complicated -- but a thorough scan can be well worth the time and effort. This section explores various reasons for scanning and describes a range of approaches to meet particular needs.
- What to ask, and how to ask it: Once you've framed the purpose of your scan, what kind of questions should you ask? And what's the best way to ask them? This section offers advice on eliciting the information you're looking for, pulling people together to share ideas, being a good listener, and leaving room for unexpected learning.
- Managing expectations: Once a funder starts asking questions, holding meetings, and seeking out advice on a given topic, people in the field are likely to notice and become curious. Here are some tips on how to give a clear impression of what you're doing and how to manage the understandable hopes of people who would like to receive support.
- Getting diverse viewpoints: A scan can be particularly useful when it concentrates on aspects of the field you don't know about, people you haven't heard from, and issues you hadn't considered before. This section offers some tested methods for soliciting unfamiliar ideas, meeting new people, and encouraging candid views and input.
- Scanning continuously: These days, many funders treat scanning as a more or less continuous activity -- a frame of mind or set of routines that helps them stay aware of the larger context, open to new ideas, and connected with broader networks.
- Sharing the results of your scan: There are many ways to put the information you uncover to use, both within your foundation and in the field. Here, our contributors share ideas about how to use a scan and its results for the widest possible benefit.