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A few days ago, a colleague and I had an amazing site visit at a regional organization where staffers — among other things — oozed excitement about their recently implemented case management system. While we were there, the staff also lamented about being uncomfortable asking funders to support expanding their information technology capacity, as some funders are only interested in funding what they think is important for organizations.
While en route to our next site visit, I asked my colleague: from a purely organizational standpoint, why do people tend to hold nonprofit organizations to a lower standard than for-profit organizations? For example, if the CEO of a car manufacturer or hotel company asked their board of directors and shareholders to consider an investment in information technology to better inform their product, improve service delivery, and gather consumer feedback in real time, they would totally do it!
A foundation’s effectiveness is inextricably linked to its ability to remain nimble and responsive amid ever-changing socio-economic-political realities and technological advances.
And while it is of course important to fund programs that reduce social ills and disparities, foundations need to be more open to grant requests that aim to improve organizational health and capacity building at nonprofits, too.
Funders need to embrace such grant requests with the same — or even greater — level of interest and appreciation as requests for programmatic support. Funders must dare to transcend orthodox grantmaking, as we tend to obsess over programmatic outputs while completely ignoring grant proposals that strike at improving aspects of an organization’s core functioning such as governance, talent recruitment and retention, professional development for staff, information technology capacity, and healthy workplace culture and behaviors.
Read the full article about funders and nonprofits by Anthony Richardson, associate director at the Nord Family Foundation, at The Center for Effective Philanthropy.