Here you can find answers to the questions we get asked most often about our investment process.
Frequently asked questions about investing
Does Luminate accept unsolicited proposals?
Unfortunately, we don't. We identify potential grantees and investees through our own research and diligence, plus our extensive global network. You can find more information about our process here.
What types of funding does Luminate offer?
The type and size of funding we consider depends on the opportunity. Common types of funding we have used in the past include but are not limited to: direct equity, deferred equity instruments such as Simple Agreements for Future Equity (SAFE) or convertible notes, debt, general funding grants, and project grants.
Aside from strategic fit and potential impact, what else does Luminate consider before investing?
We also consider the alignment between our organisations when it comes to our mission, values, and goals. Then there’s financial and organisational health, team dynamics, the broader market or ecosystem, your theory of change, and your impact so far. We also need to make sure your proposal and organisation meet all applicable legal requirements.
How often does decision-making on grants and investments take place?
We do not have set decision-making cycles so we evaluate opportunities on a rolling basis. That said, unique limitations, such as financial year end, will be communicated as part of the funding process.
How long does the process take?
We can’t give you a set timeline as it depends on many different factors. However, we always do our best to avoid unnecessary delays and will keep you updated on the status of your proposal.
Grants or investments to organisations or companies we have already supported tend to be slightly faster, whilst larger amounts and those to new organisations or companies typically take a little longer. Other factors that influence timing include the degree of due diligence required; internal funding deadlines; jurisdictional, legal, or regulatory factors beyond our control; and scheduling constraints for decision meetings.
We try to factor timing sensitivities into every opportunity we explore. When funding is urgent, please tell us upfront.
Who makes investment decisions?
The approvers for each grant or investment depend on its characteristics. The Investment Committee can comprise our CEO, the Investment Management team, as well as region and impact area senior staff connected to the country and impact area. In some cases we also use external expert advisers.
Do we need other funders or co-investors on board to receive Luminate funding?
We try to avoid organisations becoming financially dependent on one funder or funding stream. Therefore, for typical grants or investments, we expect the organisation or company to be seeking or to have secured co-funding or co-investment.
Does Luminate provide multi-year grant funding?
Our grant terms usually vary from one to three years, and we often tranche our funding with specific disbursements conditional on meeting agreed criteria or goals. These terms will always be agreed with you before signing the grant agreement.
Will a grant be automatically renewed when it expires?
No, grants are never automatically renewed. We approve renewals depending on the merits of the opportunity, its continued alignment with our strategy and values, and your impact to date. Each opportunity must go through the full approval process.
Does Luminate provide unrestricted grant funding?
As part of our investment philosophy, we prefer to provide unrestricted grants, also known as general operating grants. However, project grants are more suitable where overlap with our strategy is more restricted. We evaluate each opportunity to determine the most appropriate grant type.
Do you tie funding to conditions such as meeting goals or metrics?
We evaluate each funding opportunity individually. After grants have been approved, we often tranche our funding with specific disbursements conditional on meeting certain goals or criteria. With for-profit investments, performance goals will be tailored accordingly.
We will always try to be fully transparent about these terms and will discuss them with you beforehand. They will be subject to ongoing conversation.
Can we apply for more than one grant at a time?
Generally, no. On rare occasions, we may consider an additional grant for a specific purpose. This is normally only under exceptional circumstances and for time-sensitive opportunities.
We are a non-US organisation. How does that affect the grant process?
As a US-based private foundation, we evaluate each organisation and determine whether it is likely to get certified as a Foreign Public Charity Equivalent (FPCE) – and whether this makes sense to pursue. If so, we will have a third party conduct an Equivalency Determination that evaluates your organising documents, funding sources, and activities.
Having charitable status in your country of registration is a positive indicator, but does not ensure FPCE certification. Seeking FPCE certification can add time to the approval process, but may also provide additional flexibility in structuring the grant, and help you attract funds from other US private foundations. Please note that not having charitable status in your country of registration does not preclude you from receiving FPCE certification.
If certification is not achieved, we will have to exercise what’s called ‘Expenditure Responsibility’ over the grant, as required by the US Internal Revenue Service, to ensure that our funding goes solely towards charitable activities. Expenditure Responsibility (ER) requires strict reporting from you on how funds were used, and specific language in the grant agreement. It also requires additional due diligence to confirm your ability to carry out the charitable project and properly use and account for the funds. As part of this, your organisation, past experience, management, activities, and practices will be evaluated. Grant funds must also be maintained in a separate account on your books – and sometimes an entirely different account. Lastly, these types of funds may not be used for lobbying, re-granting or any purpose other than the one stated in the grant agreement. If you need more information on FPCE or ER grants, please ask your Investment Lead – they will be happy to help.
We are fiscally sponsored. How does that affect the grant process?
We will need information about both your organisation and your fiscal sponsor. Fiscal sponsorship is commonly used for organisations who have not yet acquired charitable status, or individuals or coalitions that have not yet incorporated as an entity.
The sponsor is typically a well-known public charity that regularly engages in this practice. Under this arrangement the sponsor lends its non-profit status to the sponsored entity or project, is legally and financially responsible for the project, and has full discretion and control over the use of the funds. Communication between us and the end-recipient will always be done through the fiscal sponsor.
We are a for-profit company seeking a grant. Can Luminate support us?
In some very limited circumstances we can provide grants to for-profit companies for charitable projects, but we will have to exercise Expenditure Responsibility. We evaluate each opportunity independently and, if we decide to move forward, we will then determine what the best funding type is for your organisation.
What data security practices do you have in place to keep information we share with you safe?
Whom can I contact if I have feedback about the investment process?
You can always get in touch with the Investment Lead handling your proposal. If you would like to speak with someone else, please contact [email protected].