The third profile in the "Funding Performance" series, "Brain + Heart + Ears," shares the story of how the UK's Blagrave Trust is working to disprove the conventional wisdom that supporting grantee performance is relevant only for foundations with billions of dollars and hundreds of staff members.
We wish we had a nickel for each time we’ve had a discussion about helping grantees become high-performance organizations and heard a response like this from a funder: “I get it, but we’re not exactly the Gateses or Waltons.”
This reaction reflects the conventional wisdom that supporting grantee performance is relevant only for foundations with billions of dollars and hundreds of staff members. We have a different view. We’ve seen funders with significant but hardly stratospheric resources helping their grantees make the leap to high performance.
The UK’s Blagrave Trust, which focuses on helping disadvantaged young people transition successfully into adulthood, is a case in point. With an endowment of approximately $50 million, it’s not a massive foundation. It has only two (going on three) staff members and some outsourced finance and admin support. Its members typically work out of their homes when not on the road visiting with grantees (which they always call “partners”). And yet Blagrave is punching way above its weight—by combining intellectual rigor (brainpower), humility and openness with its grantees (heart), and a deep commitment to listening to the young people it aims to serve (ears).
“Walking beside Blagrave Trust as it has deepened its feedback practice has been incredible,” says David Bonbright, chief executive of Keystone Accountability. “Now we are looking on with mouths agape as Blagrave is working with others to change funder attitudes across the UK.”
Providing almost all of its partners with flexible, multi-year grants has been part of Blagrave’s formula. But even more important has been the passion of Blagrave’s 46-year-old director, Jo Wells, to learn from mistakes she witnessed—and in some cases, contributed to—in her prior life delivering international aid.
Read full profile about the Blagrave Trust at Leap of Reason Ambassadors Community.