Talking Past Each Other: Conflicting Strategies

Misunderstood and conflicting strategies have their roots in miscommunication — as grantmaker and grantee misunderstand each other’s underlying intentions, make assumptions about their compatibility, or withhold nagging doubts about the prospects for the grant. And since the trouble is really one of conflicting judgments or preferences about strategy — not necessarily a problem of performance — the solution requires a new commitment to thoughtful dialogue.

The grantmaker and grantee need to arrive at a shared understanding of the problems the grantee faces and establish a candid dialogue where the two can figure out what to do. One grantmaker recounted a critical meeting where she had to “frankly express my concerns” over the way a grantee’s strategy was ultimately at odds with the foundation’s. “I told her my foundation had taken lots of heat” because of the grantee’s choices. She asked where the grantee stood, inviting a full discussion about their underlying assumptions, values, and preferences. Although sometimes painful, the meeting “actually reassured me about her, that the issue was confusion and inexperience” — not an irreconcilable difference.

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 When Projects Flounder.