Funder Identity & Culture
How does a funder’s approach and history affect how they are perceived, how they relate with grantees, and how impact is achieved? How do culture, diversity, and identity come into play in the funder-grantee relationship?
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A lack of transparency around how diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is valued and integrated into a funder’s work can lead to questions about a funder’s commitment to DEI.
A funder’s reputation impacts the funder-grantee relationship.
When funders wear multiple hats — as individual advocates as well as representatives of a funding organization — it can be unclear which role the funder is playing at any given time.
Power dynamics, if not acknowledged, can affect the strength and quality of funder-grantee relationships.
Grantees crave structure and clarity with regards to 1) the funding process and what to expect from the relationship once funded, and 2) shifting strategic priorities.
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Be transparent about your strategic priorities, and keep grantees informed as to how they may be changing.
Support professional development of investment leads to develop expertise in the field in which they are managing grants.
Be explicit about which role you are playing at a given time (as both a funder and advocate in the field), understand where the boundaries of that role lie, and be aware of the conflict that may crop up when switching roles. This is relevant both in private (e.g., in a conversation with a prospective grantee) and in public (e.g., when writing a white paper).
Look for opportunities to model transparency and honesty in communications with grantees. Greater transparency from funders around their own challenges and failures will help grantees by reinforcing that their experiences are normal, expected, and worthy of support, and will facilitate a more productive and beneficial funding relationship for both parties.
Be explicit about the role DEI plays in your organization and how you are integrating DEI-related efforts and considerations into your funding approach, strategies and external relationships.
Honestly and frankly acknowledge the power you hold in relation to your grantees, as a prerequisite for building trust in relationships.
Explore opportunities for training and professional development to help staff build awareness of power dynamics and skills for how to communicate and navigate them more effectively.
Consider finding ways to diversify your network and the organizations you fund, by, for example, intentionally engaging with organizations beyond the types of entities and approaches that you are most familiar and comfortable with, and questioning your frame of reference for what is ‘a fit.’