Nonprofits often allow donors to visit their organizations because these site visits let funders get a feel for the work, meet staff members and occasionally hear from the people served by the agencies.

The Princeton Area Community Foundation recently held a seminar with a panel of professional grantmakers:

  • Jeffrey M. Vega, President & CEO of the Community Foundation (moderator);
  • Monica Hall, Program Officer at The Victoria Foundation;
  • Diane Hagerman, Deputy Director, Programs at NJ Health Initiatives;
  • Jamie Kyte Sapoch, Advisor of The Bunbury Fund; and
  • Nelida Valentin, Vice President, Grants & Programs at the Community Foundation

The panelists talked about how to conduct a productive site visit, what to ask, what to look for, and what outcomes to expect. Here are 10 tips:

  • Provide advance notice to the nonprofits – surprise site visits are not productive.
  • Expect nonprofit leaders and some board members to attend.
  • Be upfront: make the expectations of the visit clear.
  • Acknowledge that you can learn from the grantees – they are the experts in the field.
  • Be prepared – it’s a sign of respect. If the nonprofit submitted a formal grant application, read it again; visit the agency’s website and review its 990s.
  • Ask questions. For example: Do you have research to back up your approach? Who are you engaging in the community? Who else is doing work in this field? What makes your approach unique?

If a visit is not going well, ask for a five-minute break.

  • How do you know if a site visit is going well?
  • You see an engaged board.
  • You walk away with the feeling that an organization is living up to its mission.
  • Your brain and heart are satisfied: you received data and left inspired.

If you would like to go on a site visit, the Community Foundation can help. Call us at 609.219.1800 for help arranging a visit or to have a Community Foundation staff member accompany you on a site visit.