July 21, 2005
by Dialogues on Civic Philanthropy
Grants, Grantors, Grantees:
What is the meaning of a grant? What obligation - what sort of relationship - does it imply for grantors and grantees?
July 21, 2005
12:30 to 4:30 p.m.
The Foundation Center
New York, NY
The Foundation Center was the gracious host of our third dialogue, attended by twenty-one researchers, program officers, foundation and non-profit leaders, trustees, donors, and grantees.
Click here to download a transcript of this discussion (PDF format, 47 pages, 376 KB), including a participant list.
Background Comments and Questions
Champions of democracy have long been in favor of democratizing relations between grantors and grantees. But what this would mean and whether it is feasible to try to do so depends, in no small part, on what exactly one understands a grant to be. To be sure, the relation (and expectations) between grantors and grantees affect the understanding of a grant. But even more, one’s understanding of the nature, terms, and fundamental meaning of “a grant” will likely affect grantor-grantee relations, often profoundly.
For example, when the federal government first became a funder of sponsored research, it realized that, in order to get what it wanted, it would have to support the kind of research that universities wanted to do. This gave rise to a dual system of relationships, one based on contracts, the other on grants. Over time, however, the distinction seems to have faded, though many continue to think that the expectations and assumptions of each system may well be at odds with the other. Is a grant really a contract? Or is it something else entirely, say, a gift, an investment, a covenant, or a sponsorship?
If philanthropic practice is to become more democratic, as well as more effective and more accountable, this crucial element of the philanthropic exchange requires clarification. What is the meaning of a grant? What obligation—and what sort of relationship—does it imply for those that make it and those who receive it?
1. “Grantmaking Today and the Donor/Donee Relationship” by Joseph S. Dolan
2. “Foundation Grants and the Grantor/Grantee Relationship” by Sara Engelhardt
3. “Grants, Grantors, Grantees” by Eugene R. Wilson
This response was written after the July 21 dialogue, drawing from the discussion:
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