Last week I was at a conference and met a colleague who told me of a local funder who took or is taking a year off to create their strategic plan. Some funders I’ve known of in the past have taken 18 months or two years off for this.

So, funders, we need to have a talk. Because of power dynamics, your grantees can’t be completely honest with you to your face, but this practice of taking significant time off to determine your strategies and priorities is not only extremely aggravating, it’s also steeped in privilege and is harmful to not only the nonprofits that rely on you for funding, but to the people who rely on the nonprofits.

Whatever clarity and focus foundations gain from this length of time off usually does not make up for the all the negative consequences these hiatuses in grantmaking bring. By the time the funder comes back to reality, community needs may have changed, and their partners may have moved on, in which case the funder’s plan is immediately out of date (though no one will actually tell them that to their face).

Foundations have less knowledge about community issues, so it makes very little sense for them to lead in strategy and demanding nonprofits follow their lead. They should be following nonprofits’ lead on which strategies to tackle. And if it’s purely an internal thing (staff structure, branding, etc.), it still doesn’t warrant shutting down grantmaking for any amount of time to do it.

There are tons of funders out there doing amazing work. And like nonprofits, they do need to be intentional about how they go about doing it. Within reason. Unless you’re facing a severe existential crisis, taking huge amounts of time off is indulgent and out of touch. If you’re going to do strategic planning, don’t overthink, do it fast, and take lead from community. And for the love of Equity, keep allocating funding.

Read the full article about foundations and grantmaking by Vu Le at Nonprofit AF.