The case is closed: general operating support (GOS) is both good for grantees and communities and favored by funders.  Further, in CEP’s recent study, New Attitudes, Old Practices: The Provision of Multiyear General Operating Support, the authors were “unable to identify significant barriers foundation leaders experience in providing or increasing their provision of multiyear GOS.”

And yet, many foundations still provide no multiyear GOS grants, and those that do only provide them to a small percentage of grantees, CEP’s study also finds. Why is there such a troubling gap in implementation?

PEAK Grantmaking, a community of more than 5,000 grants professionals working at foundations of all sizes and types, has long been the home for those concerned about improving the policies and practices governing grantmaking. It’s these details — big and small — that have, over many years, become ensconced into grantmaking “tradition.”

Consider, from the perspective of a grant seeker, how money is typically pushed out a grantmaker’s doors. First comes the application, where you must be as precise as possible about what the dollars will fund by responding to 20 very specific questions in fewer than 1,500 characters. Once you’ve submitted that, we take that information, disappear into a “black box,” and decide if your cause and capacity make you worthy. Then, if we decide you’re worthy, we write up MOUs, contracts, and agreements that restrict how you can spend your dollars, and we make you sign them. Only then will we give you the money.

But even when you have the cash in hand, it’s not over yet. In order to get us to release additional payments or consider you for future funding, you must provide (in minute detail) an account of how you’re spending the money and the outcomes you’re seeing. Oh, and you must do this on our schedule, which may be quarterly or even monthly, if we so demand!

Does this sound like an effective way to support a partner?

If leaders at funding institutions say they believe GOS grants are effective, and grants management professionals are pushing for more equitable and effective practicesand there are not any common concrete barriers to implementation, it begs the question: what’s up?

Read the full article about the implementation gap by Melissa Sines at The Center for Effective Philanthropy.