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For many nonprofit leaders, relationships with foundation heads, wealthy donors and other philanthropic leaders can be difficult and complicated to manage. Below are 4 lessons that I have gleaned from my unlikely partnership over the years with Larry Kramer of the Hewlett Foundation that might be helpful for these leaders and the donors who want to assist them beyond this current moment of activism.
Honest Feedback: Respond candidly to philanthropic leadership when they ask for candid feedback about their grantmaking. Many nonprofits are reluctant to be candid because they assume that it might jeopardize future funding. If the request for feedback is not authentic, they were not the right foundations anyway. What do you have to lose?
Seizing the Moment: Be bold in your ask of leaders. Timidity is not always a virtue. We have countless historical examples of people being in the proverbial right place at the right time. I have another quick example of a philanthropist giving me much more than I expected.
Position Your Network: Leverage the relationships of those philanthropic leaders. When Larry Kramer asked me to meet with him in Dec. 2013, I agreed on the condition that he would help me. One of my main asks was for a connection with Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation. Larry was more than happy to oblige. Who gets a meeting with Darren Walker just like that? I do because Larry paved the way!
Step into Your Power: Sell your passion packaged in excellence. I take tremendous pride in A Black Education Network’s brand. We strive to always put our best foot forward and have garnered countless awards for this uncompromising commitment to high quality. When I met with Larry, I had a bound, full-color proposal to share with him. Funders appreciate well-prepared people.
Read the full article about lessons in successful funding partnerships by Debra Watkins at The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy.