Philanthropy Lessons: The Power Dynamic

This video from Exponent Philanthropy’s 9-part Philanthropy Lessons series explores the dynamics of grantor/grantee relationship, and provides practical actions that family foundation staff can take to lessen the power differential between your foundation and your grantees:

  • Creating opportunities for dialogue. Each year our foundation invites the executive directors of several grantee organizations to participate in a 9-month fellowship program. Alongside our staff, these executive directors read several books and articles on nonprofit leadership, governance, and grantmaking. We engage in open conversations about challenges inherent both in the grantmaking and grantseeking processes and learn a lot from one another along the way.
  • Meeting grantees where they are…literally! Recognizing that it can be intimidating for a grantee to approach a foundation, we make a conscious effort to meet with grantees on-site at their location or at a local coffee shop. This isn’t always feasible or appropriate, but it can help reduce some “foundation formality” and promote genuine grantee/grantor dialogue.
  • Asking for feedback. When we recently made updates to our online application process, we sought feedback from a group of grantees prior to the roll-out. We used a free online survey tool to ask 4 simple questions (primarily open-ended). Not only did we receive feedback that will improve the process for grant applicants and grant reviewers, but we also learned how much it meant to our grantees that we asked their opinions! A number of grantees have since shared with us that it was an unusual—and very welcome—experience to be asked for their insights and critiques of a funder’s process.
  • Simply opening our doors. Several years ago, our foundation decided to take a simple step to help our grantees feel welcome in our office: We hosted a small reception. We’ve continued the tradition each year since. Grantees are able to network with one another and mingle with our board and staff. It’s a powerful way to help break down barriers, whether real or perceived.

Read more at the Exponent Philanthropy website.