Grantees are interested in and looking for portfolio support, and would like more clarity, autonomy, and choice in how they access and receive that support.

Grantees have many organizational health needs that can be met by connecting them with the right resources, such as other organizations, consultants, services, mentors or vendors. However, it is important that the process for accessing this support and the context in which it is provided is clear, to avoid it being seen as punitive.

“They say we can always reach out, but don’t offer concrete opportunities or office hours.”

Participants expressed interest in the following portfolio support* areas:

  • Recruiting and hiring: Growth and scaling were important concerns for many of the respondents, and in some cases “growth” was understood to mean hiring people to help meet metrics. Grantees see a need for active recruiting and hiring support.
  • Financial management: Both survey respondents and interview participants strongly agreed that GCE had expertise in financial management.
  • Fundraising: 88% of survey respondents indicated that fundraising support was extremely desirable.
  • Networking, outreach and community development: Interview participants appreciated the sense of belonging that came from attending GCE gatherings and viewed access to other grantees as valuable. They also appreciated when GCE helped to expand their reach, e.g., on social media by “signal boosting” or promoting their work.
  • Evaluation and audits: Organizations that have undergone an evaluation or audit generally reported positive experiences.

Knowing that this kind of additional support existed wasn’t enough for organizations to feel that GCE was meeting their specific needs, because there was no framework for taking advantage of the offers.

Some participants expressed concerns about accepting alternative portfolio support from GCE, due to the power difference inherent in the funding relationship and the implications of admitting weakness to a funder. Their concerns ranged from not being able to pick or change who the service provider is to wondering if the service provider would “spy” on them and report weaknesses to GCE.

These concerns were tied to participants not having clarity about why support was being offered and to what end – was it because GCE was keen to help proactively build organizational capacity, or was it because they were performing badly and GCE was intervening? This concern may indicate a lack of underlying trust; some participants indicated that they could not be sure that GCE had their best interests in mind, and therefore were hesitant to share challenges or accept support.

In the past, GCE ILs have provided portfolio support by taking seats on select grantees’ boards. This is a unique practice in the non-profit funding sector, and was generally met with skepticism. Over one-third of survey respondents believed that the practice of GCE holding board seats was not at all helpful for their organization. Their reasons included fear of sharing internal problems with a funder present, power or knowledge asymmetry, negative perceptions by third parties of having a funder on the board, and concerns that representing GCE’s interests would take priority over acting in the grantee’s best interest. There was a qualitative difference in the sentiments of those observing the practice of GCE taking board seats and those experiencing it. Survey respondents who had a member of GCE staff on their board, viewed this participation more positively than those respondents who didn’t.

There was a positive correlation between GCE’s participation on an organization’s board and that organization’s perception of the ease of communication with GCE. Leaders of organizations with a board member or observer felt much more comfortable asking for help, implying a closer relationship and more open channels of communication.

What most organizations appreciated from board members was strategic advice, operational support, and connections to the ecosystem.

*Portfolio support refers to specifically earmarked support, above and beyond grant funding, to build organizational capacity and resilience. Examples include executive coaching, fundraising support, digital security trainings, or diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) reviews.


“More than anything, we need [GCE] to help us find and hire talent.”

“I appreciate the signal boosting to share our story with a wider audience.”

“We accepted [GCE employee] on our board because we like and trust them.”

“We felt like [GCE employee] did not represent our interests, they represented [GCE’s] interests.”

“No. We don’t want them on a board. I’m not sure it makes sense to have the org giving the money supervising how it’s spent. Isn’t that a conflict of interest?”

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