Culture Change Lens

In addition to having an awareness of internal and external grantee circumstances, understanding the role institutional culture plays can support the success of capacitybuilding investments. By institutional culture we mean those organizational ways of thinking or acting that become generally accepted norms and can support or get in the way of change. For example, is the grantee quick or slow to change overall? What’s the culture of decision making on the spectrum of quick and hasty to slow and deliberate? Is it inclusive or top-down? Institutional culture is also an expression of organizational values. Does the grantee seek out and reward innovation? Operate as a learning organization in action? And so on.

If you’re working with a new grantee, or you don’t know the answers to these questions, think about ways to weave these lines of inquiry into your interactions, such as sitevisits or through meetings where you get the opportunity to interact with others beyond the executive director. Even in instances when capacity building seems straightforward — like website development or social media — culture change factors in. As one funder said, “Website capacity cannot be built without organizations changing the way they view and utilize that technology.”

Some funders also reminded us that foundations have to think about their own institutional cultural orientation to capacity building in order to successfully support their grantees. For example, when funders design initiatives, there’s usually an end in sight. Capacity building has an organizational culture change component that isn’t bound by time. Thinking about how your foundation’s own institutional culture supports or might get in the way of capacity building can be an important starting point.

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.