July 21, 2005
by Joseph Dolan
BEFORE EMBARKING on a discussion of the nature of grants and relationships with grantees, a funder must step back for a moment and recognize that grantmaking has dramatically changed in the past twenty years. There is much research on foundations and donors, or various program categories, but little really on how nonprofit organizations themselves have changed over the years. So, the backdrop from my perspective and observations, especially in major cities, is that we now face today:
This is the context in which grantmakers review proposals today. However, our immediate concern is the relationship between grantor and grantee. Thus, it is interesting to note conclusions of “Listening to Grantees: What Nonprofits Value in Their Foundation Funders” (The Center for Effective Philanthropy, 2004, 32 pp), a report based on the survey of thousands of grantees of dozens of foundations. The Center identified three dimensions of foundation performance that grantees value in their foundation funders. They are:
1. Quality of Interactions with Foundation Staff: fairness, responsiveness, and approachability
2. Clarity of Communication of a Foundation’s Goals and Strategies: clear and consistent articulation of objectives
3. Expertise and External Orientation of the Foundation: understanding of fields and communities of funding and ability to advance knowledge and affect public policy
However, my experience in grantmaking over the past twenty years clearly shows:
Joseph Dolan is executive director of The Achelis and Bodman Foundations.
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