Control Lens

The issue of control clearly relates to power and is important to honestly reflect on. What control issues do I have that relate to this particular grant? Am I concerned the capacity building will fail if I’m not heavy-handed? Is this because I think the organization doesn’t know how to do capacity building, or that it won’t approach it seriously or the way I would approach it?

Control issues often appear when consultants get involved. On one hand, grantmakers genuinely want to help grantees manage successfulrelationships with their nonprofit capacity builders. “It’s generally not the case that grantees have as much experience working with consultants as we have,” said one grantmaker. “Grantees don’t always know what to request and what to expect of nonprofit capacity builders. And they may not feel confident in setting the parameters of the relationship with the provider.” But we heard from nonprofits that how foundations answer questions like: “Who picks the consultant? Who negotiates the parameters of how the consultant will work? Who does the consultant report to?” can fundamentally change our relationships with grantees. In the words of one nonprofit leader, “The ideal scenario is when the funder allows the nonprofit to choose the consultant but is willing to make referrals to one or more people that they think are really good and is clear that the group won’t be penalized for going with someone else.” Since we know that sometimes success or failure can have less to do with how “good” a consultant is and be more about the compatibility among the personalities involved, it’s often better to let grantees decide who they do or don’t want to work with.

Bottom line: Sometimes grantees need or want more direct guidance and involvement from funders. And sometimes funders are too controlling. Learn to distinguish between the two and to exercise the right amount of engagement that supports, but doesn’t compromise, the relationship.

Takeaways are critical, bite-sized resources either excerpted from our guides or written by Candid Learning for Funders using the guide's research data or themes post-publication. Attribution is given if the takeaway is a quotation.

This takeaway was derived from Supporting Grantee Capacity.