Grantmakers are Partners

April 9, 2018       THE NONPROFIT TIMES      

Grant awards made by funders are meant to produce specific changes. Whether the funder is a private foundation or a government agency, it uses grant awards as a tool to address issues about which it is concerned.

Nonprofits exist to pursue specific missions, and they use grant awards to fuel their work. Funders provide the means and nonprofits provide the muscle — they’re partners. “A funder-grantseeker relationship is hierarchal and can discourage mutual transparency,” said Barbara Floersch, executive director of The Grantsmanship Center in Los Angeles, Calif. “A partner relationship recognizes the essential nature of each role and is likely to produce more impact.”

To increase impact, managers at lots of funders and nonprofits are working together intentionally to move away from the stereotypical grantor/grantee dynamic and to build partner relationships. As the field of philanthropy works towards that ideal, Floersch advised nonprofit managers to be proactive in encouraging the change.

  1. Partnerships are based on mutual interests. Be sure grant proposals are submitted only to appropriate funders, those with expressed interests and demonstrated support in your area of interest.
  2. Successful partnerships are honest. Be sure the programs and outcomes you suggest are realistic. Keep the funder informed of what’s working well and what’s not. If there’s a major problem in implementing the program, tell the funder what’s happening and explain the course corrections you plan. In some relationships, you’ll want to engage the funder in the troubleshooting discussion
  3. Good partners are mutually supportive. If you have a problem with some aspect of your relationship with the funder, talk to your contact person about that. Work to solve problems and foster open, two-way communication. Above all, talk to the funder, not about the funder.
  4. Good partners deliver. Deliver what the grant proposal promised, or if that turns out to be impossible, engage the funder in establishing new, attainable objectives. Submit reports on time. Be well prepared for meetings and presentations. Be a trustworthy partner who performs.

“Transforming the traditional, hierarchical relationship into a partnership is in everyone’s best interest,” said Floersch. “It’s about being more effective.” ©Copyright 2018 The Grantsmanship Center