Fearless Philanthropy: Engaging in Conversations with Your Grantees

Family foundations bring passion, good will and, of course, money to their philanthropy. Another asset they can bring to their efforts is the art of online conversation.

Social media takes down the barriers between people and institutions. Anyone can be online, anywhere, and in conversation in real-time about causes and issues.

Rather than hide from these conversations, family philanthropies, not necessarily as institutions, but as individuals, can engage with grantees, and potential grantees, on, say, Twitter, and learn more about the work in real-time. I call the deepening of the relationship between grantees and philanthropies wherein each is listening and learning from the other Matterness.

Being in conversation with grantees provides many benefits to family philanthropies. Here are three that I’d like to highlight:

Conversations help you understand the culture of nonprofit organizations.

Organizations reveal their culture online. Are they open or closed to discussion and debate? Do they pretend to have all the answers and only engage with the world for fundraising? Donors can see how individual nonprofits operate, and use their influence to encourage them to be more open and engaging with the world.

Conversations help you learn more about the real difficulties of nonprofit work.

For instance, by being in conversation with grantees online, donors may learn more about the barriers created by local government agencies for social service agencies.

Being in conversation with grantees and others online creates more opportunities for serendipity.

Donors can “bump into” newer efforts and unusual suspects that may turn into interesting funding opportunities in the future.

It can feel frightening to open oneself up to the world online. Those fears need to be put aside in order to take advantage of the myriad opportunities social media create for learning from and with nonprofits. In this way, fearlessness is an advantage for donors to become more strategic and have greater impact in their giving.

Allison Fine is author of Matterness: Fearless Leadership for a Social World. In addition, she is the author of the award-winning Momentum: Igniting Social Change in the Connected Age, and co-author of the bestselling The Networked Nonprofit.  

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