Funding Approach & Process
How do funder practices and processes affect grantees? How sensitive is the funding process to the needs and constraints of grantees? Which aspects are particularly challenging?
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Grantees value deep and trusting relationships with funders, grounded in subject area expertise.
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.
Multi-year flexible funding is extremely valued.
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.
Reporting and metrics are not always perceived as useful and valuable to grantees.
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.
Develop processes that are transparent and used consistently with all potential grantees, so that everyone has the same opportunities to engage on the design of their grant and related outcomes (e.g., metrics, reporting, grant structure).
Clarify the steps, inputs and outputs of the funding process, and the process for accessing alternative types of support. Pay particular attention to communicating what is required from the grantee early on in the process.
Clarify roles and responsibilities of key people involved in relationship management with the grantee. This is particularly important for creating a deep and trusting relationship and provides clarity over who the grantee should direct questions to.
Explore alternative and more flexible models for portfolio support, as opposed to taking board seats as a funder, e.g., create opportunities for grantees to support each other through board participation with careful consideration for possible conflicts of interest and power dynamics, or for leaders of grantee organizations to pursue professional development.
Give grantees more autonomy and choice when taking advantage of additional portfolio support e.g., by giving them ownership over who to work with and under what terms. Have clear guidelines around privacy and NDAs with the vendors.
Be clear about expectations and responsibilities of grantees once in the portfolio e.g., with regards to reporting, evaluation, and expected duration of support.
Be respectful towards organizations’ existing networks and relationships when conducting diligence, by being explicit about the times and contexts in which your processes cause you to engage within their networks.
Give sufficient time to develop an impact measurement framework that a grantee is comfortable with, e.g., consider allocating time at the beginning of a grant term to dedicate to working on co-designing indicators that are outcome-driven and aligned with the grantee organization’s strategy.
Be explicit about the purpose of grant reporting and where possible offer guidance and options around formats.
Proactively talk with grantees about how reporting can better fit into their existing workflow and improve their organizational health.
Provide timely feedback on reports provided by grantees.
Invite grantees to propose metrics or impact measurement frameworks that best reflect their strategy, impact model, and desired outcomes.
Where possible, align metrics with organizations’ existing frameworks for monitoring, evaluation, and learning (MEL), and where organizations lack a coherent MEL framework, consider offering support in building out MEL within the organization (as part of the grant or in the form of portfolio support).
Where possible, identify an opportunity to sync impact measurement and reporting across co-funders to alleviate the burden on grantees.
Create processes for gathering and incorporating organizational feedback on metrics over the course of the funding period and offer flexibility with how metrics are structured and used.
When expecting to transition a grantee out of your portfolio, specify a “ramp down” time period, during which grantees have time to adjust to the changes in their finances and plan for the months and years ahead.
Consider providing strategic and financial planning support, particularly focused on the post-funding phase.
Consider inviting organizations to do an exit interview or survey at the end of a grant or the funding relationship to collect meaningful feedback on their experience.
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.
Build in more opportunities for iterative feedback and learning with grantees.
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.
Take steps to invest in the organizational health of your grantees, beyond individual projects.
Where appropriate, explore alternative funding models in collaboration with your grantees, to help alleviate dependency on philanthropic funding, and build operational sustainability.
Provide core funding where possible, and build flexibility in the grant structures to allow the grantee to develop sustainable organizational practices and resiliency.