A new way to support long-term viability

Providing grantees with what they need — beyond a check.


A large U.S.-based foundation had made grants for new and unconventional approaches with potential for high impact. Grantees were experts in their respective fields, but most had not yet established organizations; these early-stage innovators had backgrounds spanning education, research, science, health, and technology. Each grantee had achieved early success and wanted to take their work to the next level. What type of support would they need to identify opportunities, address barriers, and achieve long-term sustainability?


Corporations and foundations have traditionally invested money in new ideas, but money isn’t always enough to ensure viability. Many academics, social innovators, and early-stage nonprofits lack experience with business planning and modeling, even though it’s critical for any program’s long-term sustainability. In the private sector, accelerators have helped VC-funded startups launch successful companies; what’s the equivalent for new ventures receiving grants from the nonprofit sector?


Luminary Labs created a framework to help the foundation select five grantees to receive customized, targeted support, focusing on innovators with high potential, distinctive needs, and the organizational maturity to engage in a consultative relationship.

We worked one-on-one with each grantee to conduct an initial assessment to surface and prioritize opportunities and risks — from organizational design and revenue streams to strategic positioning and internal alignment.

Keeping each grantee’s specific mission in mind, we helped them identify action items and assign responsibility for making progress toward their goals. For some grantees, that meant creating a near-term tactical plan or a multiyear strategic plan; for others, that meant identifying partners, building an audience, or mapping out a menu of offerings to generate revenue.


Following the success of this initial program, the same foundation asked us to provide similar customized support, helping a later-stage grantee refine its business model.