Unfunded List FAQs

The Unfunded List is a new and innovative program that gives helpful and candid feedback to unfunded grant proposals. Sometimes, people have questions for us. Here are answers to the most frequently asked questions.

  1. What is the Unfunded List?

The Unfunded List began in 2015 when a handful of volunteers asked social entrepreneurs around the world to send us their best unfunded grant proposals.  An expert volunteer evaluation committee read these proposals and every applicant received helpful and candid feedback. We published the best scoring proposals to our official Unfunded List and promoted it as far as we could. Seeing the potential from this first round we formed this not for profit, 501c3 organization dedicated to providing information about philanthropy to the social sector. We continue to review grant proposals twice a year but have expanded to provide comprehensive feedback to anyone doing social impact projects – just send us whatever written materials you have that best describe your organization and our experts will take a look.  Currently, our evaluation committee is comprised of just under 200 members and we are featuring five organizations on the official Unfunded List.

  1. Am I eligible?

If you want feedback on your grant proposal then you are almost certainly eligible but let’s make sure. The Unfunded List currently has three simple questions for determining eligibility (please note these have recently changed in order to be more inclusive):

  • Is the project budget less than $5,000,000? (more or less)*
  • Do you have a written description of your program like a grant proposal, marketing deck, letter of inquiry, or other document describing your idea/organization?
  • Are you interested in receiving feedback on your fundraising and organizational efforts?

All organizations or persons that answer yes to all 3 are encouraged to submit. If you’re unsure feel free to reach out and ask.

*Please note that the organizational budget could be well above 3 million but the specific project should be smaller. We are happy to help provide feedback to projects with larger budgets but would want to have a conversation beforehand to work out the specifics.

  1. What format should the proposal be in? 

We have designed a program that can review any proposal in any format.

There are no specific guidelines for formatting proposals, but in general, it has gone best thus far with proposals that have followed a business plan format with clearly laid out objectives, rationale, logistics, and next steps for the organization. Our evaluators also like it when there is financial information included (ideally a project budget). As another general rule, shorter is better. The ideal proposal length is 4 to 6 pages but we will review anything up to 20 pages in length. Happy to consider longer proposals but only after a conversation.

Here is an example of the outline of a recent proposal we reviewed. If you have never written down your idea you could use this format and submit the results.

I. Executive & Organizational Summary (500 word limit)

II. Rationale or Theory of Change (250 word limit)

III. Call for Support (1000 word limit)

  1. Goals & Objectives
  2. Key Stakeholders
  3. Budget

VII. Participants (250 word limit)

VIII. Key Components (1000 word limit)

  1. Legacy Opportunity
  2. Next Steps & Timeline
  3. Key Dates

If the proposal you want feedback on is missing any of these elements, you may submit addendum so we can consider your full project when we provide feedback from experts.

You can view the full proposals from all of the previous winning submissions by viewing the official unfunded list here: https://unfundedlist.com/the-unfunded-list/

  1. Do you have experience reviewing grants that were submitted to major funders?

Our evaluation committee has a vast array of experience working for and with funding organizations of all sizes. A short, but incomplete, list of organizations where committee members work, have previously worked, or have otherwise been involved with includes: the Knight Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, The Slingshot Fund, The Aspen Institute, Greater Charitable Foundation, Pew Charitable Trusts, the White House, the Skoll Award, Echoing Green,  and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, among others. We also have evaluators who are experienced securing government grants at the local, state and federal level as well as evaluators with experience in corporate grant-making/partnerships. We even have international evaluators from over a dozen countries and almost every continent. Regardless of the institution you are targeting we have evaluators who can help.

We spend a lot of effort building an evaluation committee with a breadth of experience and perspective and we are confident that we can be supportive of any format submitted to any funder. Your proposal will be assured of the highest quality evaluation to prepare you for success with future submissions to funding organizations. You can learn more about our evaluation committee members by following this link: https://unfundedlist.com/evaluation-committee/

  1. Do you fund proposals? 

We do not provide direct funding of proposals. Every applicant is guaranteed a comprehensive feedback report and receives equal attention from our committee. Whenever possible, we connect proposals with potential funders and this often results in the funding of proposals.

  1. Do you show proposals to funders?

While there is no guarantee we will connect you with anyone, depending on the contents of your proposal we may suggest programs to apply to or make direct connections to potential funders. We have a growing network of funders and grant-makers interested in giving special preference to the vetted proposals we send them. In the past we connected the organization Simprints with the WeWork Creator Awards and they won first prize. This past round we nominated Global Press Institute for the prestigious Skoll Award.

In addition, we actively promote high-scoring organizations through social media, blog posts, and other channels and also promote all of our winning organizations in the lead up to and during Giving Tuesday.

We estimate that we have created well over $1,000,000 in new funding opportunities for organizations that have applied to us as well as dozens of valuable connections and introductions.

  1. What impact do you have on successful proposals?

There is a strong correlation between Unfunded List honorees and increased funding, growth, and recognition. Think of the Unfunded List as a “temperature gauge” for the strength of your organization. The stronger your rating, the better position you are to grow and succeed as an organization, and if you have room for improvement, our feedback will help better position you for funding in the future.

One of our first applicants, Accountability Lab, has seen their budget grow from $400k to almost $2 million and the Director of their Mali program received one of the first Obama Fellowships. Another Unfunded List honoree, Simprints, recently applied to and won first prize for the WeWork Creator Awards in London on the recommendation of the Unfunded List evaluation Committee and won $360,000. From last round, which was just completed, one of our applicants SoaPen received a prestigious Halcyon Fellowship and RespectAbility, a current honoree, received a $60,000 grant from the New York Women’s Foundation after incorporating our feedback into their appeal.

    1. Who funds you?

The Unfunded List operates with the generous support of our board of directors, a handful of family foundations and the MacArthur Foundation. We also charge $100 per application submitte

  • Why do you charge $100?
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    The true cost of our proposal review is over $1,000 and our funders cover the majority of the costs of the program but we do ask a small application fee to help cover these overhead costs and to ensure that we can continue to provide high quality feedback to unfunded ideas. The fee also ensures our applicants have some skin in the game and keeps the pool of proposals we receive at a manageable size.

    Have a question not answered above? Please email our founder Dave at dave@unfundedlist.com and he will be happy to answer your questions.