Dear Grantmakers: What Grantees Wish They Could Tell You
Jul 5, 2016
In order to sustain long-term grant making success, grantmakers can’t shy away from underlying issues within organizations. Grantees may find it difficult to disclose their weaknesses and the challenges they face for fear of compromising future funding from grantmaker partnerships. This can pose a threat to not only grantees because their funded programs aren’t as effective, but to grantmakers because the money is not being efficiently used to provide any actual return on the cause.
Lockheed Martin, one of our 25 Fortune 500 clients, awarded a one-year, $500,000 grant to Girls Inc. with the intent to help more girls find success in STEM fields and professions through a hands-on series of programs in Science, Math and Relevant Technology. Lockheed Martin’s Vice President Sharon Watts explained:
“…we understand the importance of investing in programs that help instill confidence in STEM in girls at a young age - and inspire them to consider a STEM career… our nation’s future competitiveness depends on a highly diverse STEM workforce.”
Thus, granting awards to causes that benefit the grantmaker in the long run proves the need to strengthen grantor-grantee relationships. In order to strengthen these relationships and ensure long-term success, grantees want grantmakers to know three things:
“We worry you don’t understand our big picture needs, but we’re afraid to share them too.”
48% of nonprofits believe grantmakers don’t understand their needs. Perhaps this is due to the fact that only 3% of foundation programs assess formal needs when considering additional assistance to provide beyond grant money.
Why would grantmakers need to be concerned with additional challenges nonprofits face beyond receiving funding? When companies and foundations invest in nonprofits that benefit the future of their business in the long run, they want to ensure their money isn’t being thrown into the wind. However, only 18% of nonprofits feel strongly that they can be honest with grantmakers about their challenges. Nonprofits shy away from sharing weaknesses or areas where they need more help in their programs, like operations or technology, in fear of missing out on receiving grants or future funding.
To Do: Let applicants know up-front a formal assessment of additional needs will be conducted after the grant is awarded. This does two things: one, it gives nonprofits the reassurance they need that their additional needs will be considered which may reduce application drop out rate or increase the amount of applications and two, it provides transparent communication after the fact so nonprofits aren’t left in fear of not being accepted for an application from appearing too needy.
“We don’t want to come off as self-serving, but we think you’re missing an important opportunity.”
The Center for Effective Philanthropy found that nearly 75% of nonprofit leaders lack money for training that could improve their executive skills and leadership development initiatives to effectively run funded programs. Because nonprofits don’t want to come off as self-serving, they neglect to express these concerns to grantmakers in the application, review or intake process and never get the additional assistance they need to carry out the program as best as they could.
While nonprofit leaders aren’t expecting grantmakers to hand over the world to them, they do recognize a missed opportunity in the potential grantee network of a foundation. The same survey found that only 36% of nonprofit leaders believe their grantors share the knowledge needed to improve organization’s operations.
To Do: Collaborate and collectively provide resources and transfer operational knowledge to all organizations you fund through a systematic, all-encompassing process. This eliminates repeat work and provides your grantees with the business intelligence they need to get the most out of your dollar.
“We understand ongoing support may not be reasonable, but we want you to consider the advantages of longer-term grants.” A whopping two-third of nonprofit leaders agree technology could lower administrative costs and longer-term grants can help nonprofits acquire that technology. The two major challenges 95% of nonprofits say they face are lack of multiyear grants and unrestricted support.
Grant seekers are looking beyond the aid of awarded grants and instead hope to take steps toward ensuring the success and growth of their charities either via updated tools or leadership training. In other words, the focus cannot be solely on the programs provided by the nonprofit, but should also see the bigger picture of what it takes to keep those programs staffed and sustained.
To Do: Discuss internally what means can actually be afforded and for how long. Have a clear idea and direction of the necessary funds and what parts can be spared. Along with the grantee, discuss a month-by-month budget and how much overflow can be used. If possible, outline the budget in a few different ways to allow for various timelines. Consider setting performance indicators with the grantee with the intent of extending the grant or creating a new one if met.
Grants create a unique opportunity to affect the community or worldwide industries as well as supporting both organizations involved. The relationship between the grantseekers and grantmakers is still very business focused and in order for either side to benefit from the enormous amount of resources involved, it is important to understand the needs and motivators of each. The above thoughts are only a tip of the iceberg. If navigating the grounds is intimidating, the team at CyberGrants can bridge the gap and support your initiatives. Contact us to see how we can help improve your grantmaking process.