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Six Methods Grantmakers Can Embrace Transparency to Foster Stronger Relationships


Philanthropy has had a historical past of being notoriously opaque and inaccessible to organizations searching for funding. In my years as a grantseeker and nonprofit advisor, I’ve waded by way of dozens of ambiguous basis web sites that make it inconceivable to know how one can get even a foot within the door to be thought of for funding.

And that’s simply the tip of the iceberg in the case of our sector’s lack of transparency.

Even as soon as a nonprofit makes it by way of the seemingly impenetrable boundaries of accessing philanthropic {dollars}, they’re typically confronted with an entire new set of challenges. Lengthy ready durations for grant approvals, uncertainty about grant renewals, hard-to-reach program officers, and sudden shifts in grantmaking technique put nonprofits in a relentless guessing recreation. Not solely does this lack of transparency exacerbate the already uneven energy dynamic that exists between funders and nonprofits, however it additionally inhibits the potential for a relationship rooted in belief and mutual accountability.

Nevertheless, when funders proactively mannequin transparency, energy consciousness, and vulnerability, it may be transformative. By setting a tone of honesty and openness, funders create the situations for a unique sort of relationship, the place everybody’s time and contributions are valued. And extra importantly, nonprofits really feel secure sufficient to share brazenly about what is actually occurring of their organizations and of their work.

These six steps can foster a extra intentional tone of transparency and enable you to create higher relationships along with your grantees.

1. Be up entrance about what you do and don’t fund.

Ambiguous or unclear funding priorities could make it troublesome for organizations to know whether or not or not they’re a candidate for funding. Being clear about your funding standards prevents ineligible grantseekers from losing their time, and likewise saves basis employees from having to wade by way of pointless proposals. Being clear about your priorities additionally means being clear about your submission course of, grant deadlines, and decision-making standards. For those who don’t have the facility to find out what’s in your basis’s web site, do what you possibly can to speak these pointers and processes to potential grantees in your verbal and e-mail communication. It’s going to prevent treasured time in the long term.

2. Don’t lead anybody on.

Normally, if a funder invitations a dialog with a nonprofit chief, chances are high that chief goes into the dialog questioning about – or hoping for – potential funding. Pay attention to the facility dynamic on this context, and be upfront if the potential for funding is (or isn’t)  on the desk. If the reply is not any, be swift in letting the group know fairly than holding them guessing. Regardless that nobody likes rejection, it’s far worse to be rejected after months of being strung alongside. Being upfront on this approach will prevent from having much more awkward conversations down the street.

3. Be accessible.

For a lot of nonprofits, particularly BIPOC-led and grassroots organizations which have traditionally had much less entry to philanthropic {dollars}, foundations can appear to be a black field. Embody contact info in your web site or provide different methods potential grantees can get in contact, resembling workplace hours or digital info classes. In case your group has a coverage of not publishing contact info, advocate for together with an possibility in your web site that provides a approach for and eligible organizations to get their work in your radar. You might come throughout an incredible group that you just didn’t learn about, and it’ll assist enhance the notion of your basis amongst potential grantees.

4. Acknowledge the supply of cash.

Funders not often title the supply of their group’s wealth, typically making a living the large elephant within the room. Naming the supply of cash is a robust option to show openness and transparency, even when it means confronting a historical past of extractive labor. Displaying up brazenly and vulnerably on this approach might help foster candid, sincere conversations with grantees sooner or later.

5. Admit your errors and failures.

We’re all human, and making errors and studying from failure is a part of all of our work. This will likely imply being sincere about your group’s racial fairness journey and acknowledging areas the place you want to proceed to enhance and develop. This could additionally embody sharing your face plant moments when your assumptions have been challenged. Modeling one of these honesty might help make nonprofits really feel snug sharing their very own missteps and learnings. Once you set the tone of transparency about failure, nonprofits really feel safer sharing their very own missteps and learnings about their work, which in flip lets you acquire a clearer image of the realities your nonprofit companions are dealing with.

6. Hold companions knowledgeable about shifts that will have an effect on their funding.

In keeping with the Open Street Alliance, funder-created obstacles make up 46 p.c of the the reason why nonprofits are unable to realize their supposed affect. Amongst these obstacles are modifications in funder technique, delayed disbursements, and modifications in grant cycles. For this reason it’s critically essential for funders to be upfront about something occurring internally that will straight affect grantee companions’ means to do their work. Maintaining grantee companions knowledgeable – and giving them a runway to plan forward – helps preserve the integrity of the connection whereas additionally stopping irrevocable hurt.

Transparency Builds Higher Funder-Grantee Relationships

Finally, being intentional about transparency with grantee companions creates the situations for extra sincere funder-grantee relationships. This interprets to a greater understanding of grantees, their work, and their challenges. It additionally presents perception that may assist funders be extra strategic and intentional of their grantmaking. As you reexamine your basis’s transparency practices, contemplate for your self, is our present strategy serving to – or harming – our means to nurture relationships of belief and mutual accountability with our companions?

To discover these concepts additional, register for our webinar, Transparency as a Grantmaking Technique to Construct Belief and Mutual Accountability, the place I’ll be in dialog with grantmakers throughout the sector about sensible methods to embrace transparency in philanthropy.


Shaady Salehi is a strategist, facilitator, and community builder who has devoted almost 20 years to the nonprofit sector. She at the moment serves as the chief director of the Belief-Based mostly Philanthropy Undertaking, a 5-year studying and advocacy initiative to make trust-based practices the norm within the philanthropic sector. Her work within the nonprofit sector has spanned many roles — from division head, to government director, to board member, to advisor — and her essential physique of labor has centered on utilizing movie, media, and strategic communications to advance social change. Comply with her @shaadys and Belief-Based mostly Philanthropy Undertaking at @trustbasedphil.




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