Grantees value deep and trusting relationships with funders, grounded in subject area expertise.

A strong relationship between the funder and grantee builds trust, enabling the grantee to take more initiative and negotiate for their needs. Partnering with an investment lead (IL) or program officer with subject area expertise is especially critical for grantees to feel like their work is understood.

“We had first-date chemistry. We just instantly understood each other.”

The investment lead (IL) was seen by participants as the face of GCE for grantees.* A positive experience with an IL reflects very well on the organization as a whole. IL’s with deep subject area knowledge are particularly valued.

The ILs’ extensive knowledge about the space made the grantees feel understood and heard, and contributed to an overall feeling of alignment with GCE as a team. One participant expressed this as really valuing the “professional, constructive, and encouraging thinking partner that our contact (IL) embodies.”

Organizations who had a close relationship with their ILs were uniformly positive about their IL’s capabilities and the amount of personal attention they received. “They’ve truly felt as much like thought partners and co-conspirators in our work as they do funders,” wrote one organization in the survey.

GCE’s openness to collaboration and negotiation was regarded as extremely positive for those who had taken the initiative to take advantage of it. Grantees who were confident enough to push back — usually with regard to metrics or reporting — felt respected and heard, and often got what they asked for. Having pushed back didn’t seem to hurt their reputation or relationship with GCE – if anything, it seemed to lead to greater mutual respect.

*Investment Lead (IL) is a similar role to a Program Officer at a foundation.


“The ILs are simply the best out there.”

“I can feel our IL wants us to succeed.”

“Our IL remembers things we told them a year ago.”

“Our IL is constructive, smart, wise, and diligent.”

“There was a big values overlap.”

“Usually we need to explain to funders what our impact is – but not [GCE]. They know what we [do].”

“We couldn’t work with the metrics we’d been given, so I just reached out to a high-level person at [GCE] and we fixed it.”

“People don’t know how foundations work! You just have to push back.”

Related Recommendations

All Recommendations arrow_forward

Related Resources