Trust & Power
What role does trust play in the funder/ grantee relationship? How can it affect the impact that both seek to have? How can funders better manage the inherent power dynamics in funder-grantee relationships?
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Grantees value deep and trusting relationships with funders, grounded in subject area expertise.
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.
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 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.
Power dynamics, if not acknowledged, can affect the strength and quality of funder-grantee relationships.
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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 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.
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.
Offer genuine space for organizations to challenge and engage in dialogue around requests, processes, funding requirements, and even strategy.
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.’