Giving Compass’ Take:
• Kris Putnam-Walkerly explains the differences between responsive and strategic grantmaking for funders and grantees and how to navigate each approach.
• Does one grantmaking approach seem more effective for your goals?
• Putnam Consulting also provides a list of potential pitfalls that can happen in the process of strategic grantmaking.
In philanthropy, there is much written about responsive and strategic grantmaking approaches in philanthropy. Which approach is the most appropriate? Meaningful? Effective? Grantmakers have many roles to play in a community, and how they define those roles can vary greatly, so it’s important for foundations to understand both strategic and responsive options to determine which approach may be preferable.
Responsive grantmaking is being open to receiving proposals and ideas from any nonprofit and allowing the nonprofits to drive the agenda. Requests are initiated by the nonprofit, rather than by a funder seeking them out. This doesn’t mean that a foundation doesn’t have core areas of focus, but it does mean that within those areas it wishes to be responsive to the needs nonprofits feel most keenly. For example, a funder may focus on substance abuse but be open to supporting a wide range of prevention and treatment programs, as well as programs serving youth and families to address multigenerational factors that lead to abuse.
Strategic grantmaking (also called proactive grantmaking) is grantmaking with more focused goals and a defined set of strategies for how a foundation wants to accomplish those goals. The funder drives the agenda rather than the grantees, although it is best to include grantees in the creation of the goals and strategies. Strategic funders typically see themselves as accountable for successful outcomes. For example, a strategic grantmaker may decide to focus on reducing the stigma of substance abuse and deploy strategies that include a statewide communications campaign, increased support for Alcoholics Anonymous and Alanon and policy advocacy to health insurance providers to cover treatment.
Responsive and strategic grantmaking each come with a set of pros and cons, but, in truth, there will always be room for both grantmaking approaches.
Read the full article about grantmaking by Kris Putnam-Walkerly at Putnam Consulting Group.
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