Giving Compass’ Take:
• This Stanford Social Innovation Review post explores ways in which funders can cultivate trusting, transparent relationships with their grantees that ultimately translate into social impact.
• Much of this boils down to asking the right questions. How can grantmakers help solve problems for their constituents?
Shortly after landing at Sports4Kids (now Playworks), our founder, Jill Vialet, mentioned a potential grant opportunity from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). I shot my hand up to volunteer. Writing was my thing. Surely I could make a contribution.
With the help of several others, we succeeded! In 2005, RWJF made a significant grant for Playworks’ national expansion. I enjoyed the process so much I volunteered again, this time to support ongoing communication with the foundation. I figured it would be more of the same — written reports, right?
Not exactly. Over the next 10 years, the program, finance, evaluation, and communications teams at RWJF taught me how deep and meaningful grantmaker-grantee relationships can be. I’m not sure if this approach to grantees is a policy at RWJF or simply the working style of the many people with whom we interacted, but either way, the partnership significantly and positively influenced the course of Playworks’ evolution.
Jill and I initially approached our monthly check-in calls with RWJF as opportunities to showcase how great we were. I shared highlights, stayed silent on challenges, and tried to seem as impressive as possible. From my vantage point, it was going really well!
Then one day, we hit a real bump in the road — a mountain, actually. Financial projections we’d made in the abstract weren’t coming true, including cash flow and regional fundraising. It was complicated and distressing, so our tone on the next call was less than chipper, though we weren’t forthcoming about why.
When we finished sharing the few highlights we had, our program officers asked: “What’s keeping you up at night?”
Read the full article about grantmakers as true partners by Elizabeth Cushing at Stanford Social Innovation Review.
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